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Dennis Russell named Bronson fire chief

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By Lou Elliott Jones

It's not clear whether the free “Bronson Fire Rescue” hats clinched the deal but shortly after being presented with the head gear the Bronson Town Council voted unanimously to elevate Dennis Russell from interim fire chief to fire chief, making his title permanent.

Russell, who took over the interim post in March, has essentially managed the department since the departure of former Fire Chief Jeff DeMaggio.

The new chief's salary was not determined in Tuesday's meeting and he must wait until the next council meeting to learn how much he will be paid, said Mayor Franklin Schuler, who made the motion to change Russell's status.

The vote came at the end of the meeting after Russell presented the council with the navy blue billed hats embroidered in red thread.

It was not the only achievement of the night as Vice Mayor Beatrice Roberts presented Schuler with his certificate for passing the Florida League of Cities Advanced Institute for Elected Municipal Officials. The training covered effective council techniques, decision making-models and media relations, growth management in Florida, advanced revenue and finance for cities and building a city team on labor and personnel issues.

The biggest item on Tuesday's agenda was discussing the need for hiring an architect to handle the design and placement of a multi-purpose steel building to be used as a community center at the town's sports complex at James Cobb Park.

The discussion was sparked by a proposal the city received from a Palatka architect and while never saying what the services would cost, the council voiced their concerns over the price.

“It just doesn't sit well with me,” said Schuler.

Councilman Aaron Edmondson said he did not see the need for using an architect, preferring instead to go with the design plans included with the building and to use an engineer for the site prep, foundation and utility work for the building.

He put the question to the city's building official Bob Neffenegger: “Do we need an architect or an engineer?” Neffenegger said, “An engineer is what you really need.”

City Attorney Steve Warm asked if Neffenegger needed an architect's imprint on any plans in order to approve them and the building official said no.

Edmondson said his reasoning is, “Why spend money on an architecht when you don't need him.”

One member of the audience suggested the city ask the county about using the county engineer Lee Mills, whose office in in Bronson, to do they work, but that was rejected.

Council member Bruce Greenlee said Mittauer & Associates of Orange Park already has an engineering contract with the city said the firm should be called in and asked about doing the work before the city looked outside for an engineer.

In his report, Public Works Director James Dunford said the work crews around the County Health Department offices on Main Street were relocating telephone lines in preparation for the sewer system expansion construction later this year.

Greenlee in his report said a complete count of roads n the city is being done and the city will be moving forward with plans for prioritizing which roads need work. “That is good. We've never had that,” said Schuler. He said it will end questions as to “why you do this and not that” on street construction.