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Vote Coming To Disband Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group

County Commission Chairman Les Miller proposed eliminating the group that was activated in March to deal with the pandemic.
County Commission Chairman Les Miller proposed eliminating the group that was activated in March to deal with the pandemic.

The Emergency Policy Group that has guided Hillsborough County through the pandemic likely had its last meeting Monday. County commissioners are set to vote Wednesday on absorbing the duties of a group made up of local mayors and countywide officials.

County Commission Chairman Les Miller proposed eliminating the group that was activated in March to deal with the pandemic. Miller, who also chairs the emergency group, expressed frustration with repeated moves to revoke mandates to wear masks indoors in public spaces.

Plant City Mayor Rick Lott voted against the mask order and praised the group's efforts.

"I think that the civility that we've been able to show in these board hearings throughout this process has been - I give the group high marks on it," he told group members during a Zoom board meeting.

Temple Terrace Mayor Art Ross concurred.

"We've been at this since March, this group, and we've made some very difficult decisions - all of us have," he said. "Some of the decisions that we've made have come at a very high cost to all of us. We've all taken the brunt of the vicious public comments. So I'm a little disappointed that we would be replaced in the fourth quarter."

Hillsborough was the only county in the state to delegate powers in emergencies to such a group.

The group known as the EPG gives equal voting power to each member: three county commissioners, mayors of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace, the sheriff and school board chair. It was formed decades ago to deal with countywide emergencies, such as hurricanes. No one could have foreseen an ongoing crisis like the current pandemic, Miller said.

Last week, EPG and County Commissioner Sandra Murman said the group has outlived its usefulness.

"Now, as it stands, we really need, with our county being as big as it is, we just have to take more control over the actions," she said.

There was an ideological split on the board, with Lott, Sheriff Chad Chronister and school board chair Melissa Snively routinely voting to overturn the mask order. 

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