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County departments hand out gifts at booths, and residents have their say.

From the outside, the "Town Hall" forum looked like a middle school science fair.

Each county department had set up its own booth outside the Brandon Community Center, handing out swag: lip balm at the Parks and Recreation booth, tape measures at Code Enforcement.

But inside, the mood was more serious as county commissioners faced praise and criticism.

Some residents turned out last week at the Brandon Community Center to thank board members for the county's services.

Others had harsh words for them.

"There are a lot of people who think you're representing other interests besides your constituents," resident Pam Clouston said to a smattering of applause.

Some residents expressed irritation with the pace of development in east Hillsborough and what they said was a detached and unapproachable County Commission.

"Many of you talk about 'the poor builders, let's do something for the builders,'" said resident George Niemann. "Well, we're going to replace you. We're going to issue you a report card."

Others simply wanted redress for specific woes: a street constantly flooded, a strange smell coming from a closed landfill, a shortage of taxis in the suburbs.

As the meeting closed, commissioners thanked residents for coming out on a drizzly night.

"This is truly one of the finest boards I've ever served on," Commissioner Jim Norman told them.

"We care so much about the county. We wouldn't be here if we didn't."

S.I. Rosenbaum can be reached at 661-2442 or