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The Bronson Town Council voted 3-1 Monday night in favor of renewing a contract agreement with an area news blogger paid by the town for media coverage and advertisement. Council Member Berlon Weeks made the motion to accept the agreement.
Blogger Jeff Hardison charges $1,000 a year in tax dollars to run an advertisement for the town on his website. His contract also specifies that he will write "advertorials,” paid articles written in a manner to promote the interests of the sponsor.
"You're getting the same (web) traffic for the same dollars," Hardison told the council, claiming that his website continues to "break records" for the amount of visitors it receives.
"We didn't see you at all in September," Vice Mayor Beatrice Roberts said. "Not one meeting at all did we see you in September," she said, reminding him later that he was still under contract during that month.
In fact, Roberts told Hardison, she hasn't seen much of Bronson on his website in recent weeks, either.
Hardison said there was some confusion in when he thought the council was meeting, explaining that he thought they didn't meet in September. Later he learned that it was actually the month of October that council didn't meet.
Roberts also asked why Bronson's paid advertisement, which Hardison promised to run at the top of his calendar page, was being run lower than an advertisement placed by a local funeral home. Hardison explained that the funeral home had paid him more.
"So, you're basically saying you're not a man of your word," Roberts said. "I remember you telling us that we'd always be on top because we were the first one."
Hardison asked that the council forgive him for placing the funeral home's advertisement above the town's, though, he later said the funeral home's advertisement would be on top for a few weeks because it was announcing a memorial.
As of the following Tuesday morning, the advertisement, run by Hiers-Baxley Funeral Services, was knocked into the third position on his website.
Council Member Aaron Edmondson was the only official to vote against renewing Hardison's contract, though he gave no reason during the meeting.
When asked later why he voted no, he said, "That's just the way I felt like voting."