VERNON - Vernon City Council members are urging residents to pick up a copy of the proposed new city charter before heading to the polls next month.
The council held the first reading of the proposed changes, represented by Ordinance 18-220, on Monday and will seek voter approval at still to be announced election day in March.
Perhaps the most notable change to the charter would be the elimination of the elected position of Mayor, along with its $3,600 annual salary - taking board from current panel of five council members and a mayor to just five council members, one of whom will be appointed to serve as Mayor.
Currently, Vernon and the City of Ebro are the only Washington County municipalities in which voters still specifically elect a mayor. Chipley and Wausau each appoint a Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem from active council members, while the Town of Caryville eliminated the position of Mayor altogether in recent years and appoints a Chairman and Vice Chairman.
There were no objections heard during the first reading. The second reading is set for Feb. 20.
Meanwhile, voters are urged to review the proposals.
"Copies of the proposed charter revision are available at City Hall," said Mayor Tina Sloan. "We urge residents to get a copy and take a moment to review so that they know what they are voting on.
Another ordinance for which the Council held a first reading may not pass as easily.
Ordinance 18-219 would extend council terms until November so that municipal elections - currently held in March - would fall in November during the same time as the General Election.
Supervisor of Elections Carol Finch Rudd states while her office is glad to help Washington County municipalities hold elections, her office hesitates to agree to coordinate city elections during the General Election due to potential complications and added cost.
"We are eager to assist Vernon with their Special Election; however, I do have a concern, wrote Rudd's office to City of Vernon Attorney Michelle Jordan's office in a Jan. 22 email. "We do not hold any municipal elections in the month of November. The reason for this is the shear size of the County/State/Federal ballot and all that goes with it. We have a limited number of ballot tabulators, and those have to be tested and sealed for use in the Primary and General Elections."
Rudd's office is expected to work with the City of Vernon to discuss best options for election dates.
City officials also discussed in Monday's workshop implementing a new ordinance that would restrict sex offenders from moving into the city. Still in its early stages, the ordinance is proposed to exempt existing residents but would prohibit any new sex offenders from locating inside the city limits.
In other business, the Vernon Recreation Department is seeking rec ball team sponsorships. Anyone interested in sponsoring a team is asked to contact Rec Director Brent Gibson at 850-258-9492.
Vernon City Council will meet again in regular session at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 20. This meeting was rescheduled from Monday, Feb. 19, due to the Presidents' Day holiday.