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Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group To Be Disbanded

Several small screens during a zoom meeting.
Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group
The Hillsborough County Commission voted unanimously to abolish the Emergency Policy Group at a specially-called meeting.

The Emergency Policy Group that has guided Hillsborough County through the coronavirus pandemic will likely be disbanded. County commissioners will vote Aug. 5 whether to take over its role.

The Hillsborough County Commission had already voted to restrict the emergency group to dealing only with hurricanes. But at a specially-called meeting, board members voted unanimously to abolish the 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.

Commissioner Sandra Murman says 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 during Tuesday's meeting.

Since March, the EPG had met at least once a week. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor sometimes was at odds with the group on issues such as mandates to wear masks.

The move to abolish the group came from County Commission Chairman Les Miller, who also chairs the EPG.

He said the EPG was formed decades ago to deal with countywide emergencies, such as hurricanes. No one could have foreseen an ongoing crisis like the current pandemic, he said.

Miller has expressed frustration with some of the policy group's decisions, such as delaying a move to mandate masks be worn in public.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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