Commandments move ever closer to City Hall

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Chiefland commissioners approved unanimously Monday night on first reading an ordinance that sets new guidelines for the placement of monuments at City Hall.

The ordinance, which, among other things, allows for the placement of any monument that holds to certain requirements, such as having historical significance, will clear the path for placement of the long-lost Ten Commandments monument.

The monument, donated by Old Town businessman Joe Anderson, was removed at the end of 2011 a few months after the city was hit with a public records request from the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization that was at that time in a lawsuit with Dixie County over a similar monument.

City Attorney Norm Fugate said Chiefland's new guidelines were based in part on those already written by Levy and Bradford counties, both of which have Ten Commandments monuments donated by Anderson.

"I think, from a legal standpoint, as long as you follow this ordinance you'll be OK," Fugate said.

Chiefland resident Sylvia McCullar, after the vote was taken, said she was concerned about what types of monuments might be placed in front of City Hall in the future.

"It sounds like, to me, anything goes."

"That's my understanding, too," Mayor Teal Pomeroy said.

McCullar asked why there was so much confusion about where the monument had gone or when it would return.

Pomeroy said it was "the newspaper's" fault for not getting the information, though he offered no explanation then, or in past interviews, as to the whereabouts or planned return of the monument.

Chiefland resident Eddie Barron, husband of Vice Mayor Teresa Barron, asked if the guidelines could include a clause specifying that future monuments be non-denominational.

That would keep out "Beelzebub and Joseph Smith," he said.

Fugate said the ordinance, contrary to how some were interpreting it, was not "wide open" and requires that monuments represent ideas that have played a significant role in national, state or local law.

Tuesday morning, City Manager Grady Hartzog was asked if the Ten Commandments monument would, like potential future requests for the placement of other monuments, have to undergo the same approval process.

"That's a good question," Hartzog said, though adding he didn't believe it would have to because it had already at one time been placed there.

He said there's no specific date for the monuments return, yet, either. "This is the ground floor. When everything is secure ... it will come back," he said, adding that he believes the monument is currently being stored at the Dixie Monument Co.