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Local News

Retiring Highlands commissioner honored

Published:   |   Updated: March 11, 2013 at 09:05 PM

SEBRING Barbara Stewart's last meeting was celebrated today with ceremonial plaques and kind words from citizens and fellow Highlands County commissioners.

Before a 30-minute, cake-and-punch reception, Commission Chair Jack Richie praised Stewart for her eight years in office and the guidance she offered him and other commissioners.

"Thank you for your tutelage," Commissioner Greg Harris echoed.

It wasn't all sweetness and light, Commissioner Don Elwell recalled. There were moments when, if looks could kill, Elwell wouldn't be sitting there, he said. But Elwell thought commissioners will, in the future, wish that Barbara Stewart was still there guiding them.

"Mrs. Stewart stands out as one of the most dedicated, sincere, and hard-working leaders we have had," former Superintendent of Schools Ruth Handley said. "She studied details of each issue as she prepared carefully before meetings, independently reaching sound decisions…"

Stewart did not run for a third term. She will be replaced next week by Republican Jim Brooks, also of Avon Park.

By a 5-0 vote, the commissioners cleaned up the existing animal control ordinance.

The ordinance talked about posting notices on the courthouse door of animals at the shelter, "And that hasn't been done in quite a while," County Attorney Ross Macbeth said. Future captured pets will be posted on the Internet.

Article 3 of the ordinance confused livestock with domesticated dogs and cats, Macbeth said. Now, there are separate ordinances for all three. By Highlands County law, cats will be held for seven days and dogs for 10 days before they are destroyed.

"That's what the practice is now, we've just kept with what they have been doing," Macbeth said.

"This ordinance says that's to be done in a humane manner," Bill Youngman said from the audience. "(Animal Control Director Darryl Scott) is giving me a bad look, but that's what it says, humane manner. I can still read. But these (Animal Control Advisory Committee) meetings I went to, I don't think people would agree with that."

Animal rights protestors picketed in front of Animal Control two weeks ago, and another demonstration is scheduled on Monday in front to the courthouse.

Also next week, the Animal Control Advisory Committee is expected to release its report, which will include a review of the ordinance that Scott suggested.

After Elwell questioned EMS Director Harvey Craven about receiving only $6,000 trade in for a 2003 Ford E350 ambulance and a 2006 Ford E350 ambulance for a new 2013 Horton 457 ambulance, Stewart recommended the item come back to the commission next week.

Elwell said he looked at and found that the cheapest ambulance advertised were worth tens of thousands more.

Also, Micah Scanga and Saundra Bass, both of Lake Placid, were appointed to the Children's Services Council.

Finally, Macbeth presented a request from the Florida Governmental Utility Authority to acquire the water and wastewater utility assets of Aqua America. (863) 386-5828