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County Commission turns off the lights

The midnight oil will not be burning in the Hernando County Government Center anymore.

County commissioners this week voted 3-1, with Commissioner Pat Novy absent, to end night meetings, which they have held for the past year on the second Tuesday of each month to accommodate people who work during the day.

Commissioners said they wanted to end the night meetings because of poor attendance.

"We're starting to see the same people," said Commissioner Paul Sullivan, who last year as a county utilities employee supported the idea of night meetings. He said he had changed his mind.

"Our staff is thrilled over the prospect of not having to work all the overtime," Sullivan said. "It is costing the county money and overtime."

He also said the long meetings _ which sometimes last past midnight _ could result in poor decisions.

"After you've been in this building for 12 or 13 hours, you start to lose all sense of anything that's normal," he said. "We may make decisions that are unfair or un-thought out, or make decisions on something other than fact."

Besides, Sullivan said, commissioners may schedule special evening meetings when certain issues are to be discussed.

Commissioner Nancy Robinson, the lone opponent of ending night meetings, said she thought they were important for working people who otherwise would not have access to county government.

"I don't think they should have to take hours off to talk to the Board of County Commissioners," she said. "Some people don't have leave time to take off from their jobs."

The last night meeting will be at 6 p.m. April 8. After that, all regular meetings will begin at 9 a.m.

Darryl Johnston, president of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, expressed disappointment, but said he did not think the decision would hurt businesspeople too much.

"I think we're keeping a closer eye on things," said Johnston, whose group had been one of several that had pushed for the night meetings.

Since last year, the chamber has tried to become more politically active on local issues and has appointed a special committee to keep up with government business.