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9th Annual FFA Barnyard Day
unites Bronson schools

Students in BES teacher Becky Fries first grade class interact with BMHS FFA students as they discuss the garden and what they have in their gardens at home.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 27, 2015 @ 3:27 p.m.
     BRONSON --
Teachers and students from Bronson Middle High School and Bronson Elementary School united again as the 9th Annual FFA Barnyard Day provided an opportunity for the younger children to learn more about agriculture on Thursday (Feb. 26).

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Allie Huber prepares to speak about goats with the visiting children. These two goats are named Annabelle and Ruth.

     Bronson FFA Advisor Marcia Smith and Bronson FFA Advisor Jennifer Bray watched as their students showed the hundreds of students from BES the garden area and various livestock at the outdoor FFA Lab, which is behind the main campus of BMHS. Children were transported from BES to BMHS on flat open trailers, like at a hayride. The trailers were slowly pulled by either a tractor or a pickup truck.
     After that fun ride across the street, the BES students went in groups to the various stations set up to help them learn about many aspects of farming and ranching. The children saw goats, rabbits, chickens and even the two Bronson FFA Chapter steers. They heard about the garden where the 75 junior and senior Bronson FFA members grow green beans, carrots, potatoes and other crops.
     The potatoes are going to be enjoyed by the FFA members and guests at the annual banquet.
Megan Taylor (left in bottom picture) and her sister Lainey Taylor tell children about the Bronson FFA Chapter steers. These sisters are scheduled to show the animals at the Suwannee River Fair in Fanning Springs.

City Council meeting offers
roller-coaster ride for listeners

Fire chief objects to
very widely differing evaluations

Chiefland Fire Chief James Harris stands with two of the founding fathers of the Chiefland Fire Department with plaques. The chief thanked Oma Harrison (left) and Roman Putchaven for their service to the residents and visitors of Chiefland.

Story, Photos and Video

By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 24, 2015 @ 2:47 p.m.
     CHIEFLAND – Residents and visitors of Chiefland found a roller-coaster of emotions at the Chiefland City Commission’s regular bi-monthly meeting Monday night (Feb. 23).
     It was like a trip to the top of Mount Everest followed by the steep decline into one of the outer rings of The Inferno described by Dante Alighieri's in the first part of his 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy.

Chiefland Fire Chief James Harris stands with two of the founding fathers of the Chiefland Fire Department with plaques. The chief thanked Oma Harrison (left) and Roman Putchaven for their service to the residents and visitors of Chiefland.

     Fire Chief James Harris started his part of the evening by presenting two of the founding fathers of the Chiefland Fire Department with plaques. The chief thanked Roman “Putch” Putchaven and Oma Harrison for being among the active members of the Chiefland Fire Department, which began in 1950.
      Careful listeners would have heard that a large part of the city burned during one large fire event in 1945.
     After the firefighters of old were recognized, the squabble and wrangling began from an agenda item titled “Revision to the Performance Evaluation Composite Form and the Summary of Evaluation for Fire Chief James Harris.”
     Despite the 4-1 approval of his contract and increase in salary two weeks ago (Feb. 9), there were 10 points where Vice Mayor Betty Walker had noted as potential for improvement by the chief. The lone dissenter against the contract renewal on Feb. 9 was Mayor Teal Pomeroy.
      Near the beginning of the discussion, City Commissioner Teresa Barron noted the critique by Walker seemed flawed because it was vague – too broad and sweeping of allegations.
     The result of a 20-minute discussion was that the City Commission chose to do nothing more in regard to the 10 points where Walker contends Harris needs to improve. The deliberation included a moment where Walker said she would resign as the city commissioner who deals with the fire department, and she would let Barron have the duties as fire commissioner again.
     There was another point where Chief Harris had heard enough and was ready to depart from the room, because he was affected by what appeared to be an attack from Walker to which he had responded enough, and he was not in a frame of mind to want to continue with the debate about the job he was doing.
     The chief said he questioned some of Walker’s verbiage. Other critical comments, he said, seem to be outdated.
     “Am I on some kind of probation?” Harris asked.
     Walker said he was not on probation and that she just wanted to see the chief rectify issues she had noted as somewhat problematic within some timeframe. Although Walker alleged that she had spoken with Harris about all of the low points she saw in his performance, Harris said these matters had not been gone over, except for a couple of them on the Friday before that Monday night meeting two weeks ago.
     The fire chief perceived something was askew, because logic does not hold when there is such a wide swing of evaluations within one year.
     Harris said this one-year evaluation includes six months when he answered to Barron, and six months when he was under Walker’s direction. Barron gave him an excellent review, and Walker noted 10 points where she believes Harris needs improvement. This seems confusing to him, he said.
     People have different perspectives Walker said. Barron may not see what Walker saw, and vice versa, Walker said. Perhaps Walker missed things that Barron saw. Everyone has their own opinion, Walker said.
     Barron said the phrase “Not working with other agencies” is vague.
     Walker said she has seen for three years that Harris had not been working with the Levy County Commission. Pomeroy said he had heard from the Levy County Department of Public Safety that there was “zero communication.”
     “So you want to see more communication between the two (Harris and LCDPS Director David Knowles),” Barron said as she tried to clarify Walker’s notation.
     “However you want to put it,” Walker said. “They need to work together.”
     Barron said she would prefer specific statements on a department head’s evaluation, because that statement may be interpreted differently by various readers.

In this video, the final minutes of the heated exchanges between Mayor Teal Pomeroy, Vice Mayor Betty Walker, City Commissioner Chris Jones and Fire Chief James Harris is captured.

     The revised evaluation form, Barron said, shows “benchmarks” have been removed – where previously improvement could be measured and recorded by a person who was criticized for falling short in some fashion on his or her job in the city government.
     If the chief was not communicating at all, and is now communicating more with Knowles, then that is seen as a measured improvement, Barron said.
     Barron said Harris and Knowles have communicated in the past because they must so as a matter of getting their jobs done.
     Walker disagreed with Barron in this regard.
     “I don’t think it should be this vague,” Barron said. “I really don’t”
     Pomeroy added a thought.
     “Do you want to put Levy County Board of County Commissioners in there?” he asked.
     The mayor went on with his thought as he said no one cares if the chief is working with Alabama or Sumter County, and so noting Levy County is unnecessary.
     Barron said Levy County has claimed for at least 11 years that the various Chiefland fire chiefs do not communicate with the county government. She mentioned the same allegation was made against former Chiefland Fire Chief David Burnett, when Barron first ran for office, and it has continued through the fire chiefs since then and now with Harris.
     Walker said her critique of the fire chief is not meant to put him down. The intent is to help lead toward continual improvement. Walker said she has been “wrote up” by staff from state and federal agencies that help to fund the Levy Association for Retarded Citizens, where she serves as executive director.
     Walker said there are 10 LARC Board of Directors and some may not evaluate her as highly as some others.
     Barron said the written critique of Harris was supposed to be from the whole City Commission. Walker said no one else had comments in their notations from two weeks ago.
     Barron said it seems unfair to have noted these 10 points before the whole commission discussed and agreed that all of these alleged issues should be noted on the chief’s evaluation report.
     As for the person to be the liaison between the City Commission and the fire department, that does not necessarily have to be the vice mayor.
     While the city charter shows the mayor is the liaison between the police department and the City Commission, and the mayor is over the police chief. The charter does not mandate the vice mayor to be in that role for the fire department, although tradition has led to this happening.
     The fire chief does not like being evaluated in an open meeting.
     Harris said evaluations should be done in private. The public critique is not a common practice, he said.
     City Attorney Norm Fugate explained there is the money issue of an annual salary for the fire chief in the contract which requires public discussion. A written evaluation of a public employee is a public record, with certain exemptions such as the Social Security number and health matters.
     City Commissioner Chris Jones expressed his belief that Harris had a pre-conceived negative view about how he would be evaluated. Jones said he heard that Harris had told people Jones would be among the people who were going to fire him.
     “That’s not true,” Harris said.
     Jones went on to say that Harris should forget the gossip he hears from people who call him on the phone, and just to do his job.
     Mayor Pomeroy said that if the new evaluation form had come into existence earlier, then perhaps former City Manager Kevin Gay would have modified his method of management so that a majority of the City Commission would have voted to renew his contract.
     This current method appears to need some refinement, because nothing more than haggling and squabbling occurred Monday night, and there was no resolution to any alleged operational flaws in the administration of the Chiefland Fire Rescue Department.
     There is a stark contrast between Walker’s evaluation and the way Barron saw Harris’ performance.
     Harris said his previous 30 years’ worth of evaluations more closely match Barron’s evaluations in contrast with what Walker noted. is
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Fifty-Fourth Jingle Singer

The newest performer of the jingle is Chiefland Elementary School Music Teacher Roxanne Simpson. Everyone is invited to sing the jingle. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree. (Thanks people!) She performed the jingle in Chiefland on Jan. 27, 2015. This video was posted on Feb. 21, 2015. The next jingle performers will be Three members of Women On A Mission For Christ - Eula Patterson, Cindy Mathis and Debra Smith.
 -- Video by Jeff M. Hardison

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FRI.   FEB. 27   3:27 p.m.
Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist counties

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