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When lights go out, call to adjourn

Government meetings tend to go on and on. Perhaps there should be a new time standard: the car battery test.

Consider what happened during the Tourist Development Council meeting last week.

About 3 p.m. _ about 90 minutes after the session started _ a staffer from the Lecanto Government Building front desk entered the meeting room to warn that a vehicle in the parking lot had its lights on.

Council members chuckled. Can't be one of our cars, they agreed. If they had left their lights on when they arrived for the meeting, the batteries would have been dead long ago and the lights wouldn't be working.

So, there you have it: quicker meetings, less potential drain on batteries.

HE'S NO FAIR-WEATHER COMMISSIONER: The saying "blame it on the rain" was coined to explain away all kinds of misfortunes. But then who do you blame the rain on?

County Commissioner Josh Wooten stepped forward Tuesday to claim responsibility, after Crystal River resident Sumner Waite complained that he could not find a good parking space in downtown Inverness. Waite said he had to walk through the pouring rain to get from his distant parking space to the commission meeting at the Masonic Building.

"I'm sorry for the rain. That was my fault," Wooten said. "I ran on that platform."

PRAY TELL: Those who have sat through the tense School Board meetings over the prayer issue found Tuesday's County Commission meeting to be a refreshing change of pace. The commission had no tearful testimonials, Wiccan incantations or heated exchanges like the School Board has seen in recent weeks over the controversial Christian prayers it uses to open meetings.

"Attending here is a much calmer exercise," noted Steve Hand, director of the Withlacoochee Technical Institute, who addressed commissioners about the Economic Development Council.

It was so calm that Florida Power community relations manager Kathy Small didn't want to leave.

"I'll be heading off to the School Board after this," Small said, turning to Hand. "So, Steve, say a silent prayer for me."

OH, SHOOT: Citrus school support personnel opened their annual contract negotiations with school administrators last week, and Chris Miller was ticking off the list of items that workers wanted the union to discuss.

One of the employees' concerns: The school district doesn't allow employees an annual chance to sign up for health insurance if they haven't been a part of the plan before.

Miller said the employees want to be sure an "open season" is offered each year.

Ed Murphy, chief administration negotiator and the district's risk manager, said he would appreciate it if the union used a different phrase.

"It's open enrollment and not open season," he quipped, "though sometimes it feels like I'm in the cross hairs."

BUMPER STICKERS WE LIKE: Don't honk _ I'm trying to sleep.

_ Staff writers Jim Ross, Bridget Hall Grumet, Barbara Behrendt and Greg Hamilton compiled this report.