CHIPLEY — A town resident and peewee football coach asked the Vernon City Council why the council had approved changing the locks on the city’s Sportsplex — only to be told that the council had no knowledge of the lock change.
Jason Bullard asked the council on Monday, Oct. 28, why his Washington County youth football squad was being denied use of the city park to practice in preparation for the upcoming Snapper Bowl, which will be held in Panama City Beach beginning on Nov. 27.
“We’ve been practicing in Wausau, and that’s okay, but I don’t understand why we can’t practice here at the city park,” Bullard said. “We’re just doing this for the kids, and it doesn’t cost the city anything for us to practice there.”
Bullard said his group of kids is an all-star group that is preparing to compete in the Snapper Bowl, and has students from both Washington and Holmes Counties participating. This year the town of Ponce de Leon is providing insurance for the team, but last year Vernon provided that coverage, Bullard said.
“Your name was not brought up at the workshop,” said Councilman Tray Hawkins. “We have discussed not having practices at night at the parks where you have to use the lights, but other than that, I don’t think we can tell you not to use the parks.”
Hawkins said the park was built for public use with grant money, so it was open to use by the public.
City Attorney Michelle Tagert asked Bullard to make sure the city of Vernon is listed as a payee on the insurance if the parks.
Bullard said he had been told that Mayor Michelle Cook had ordered keys to the Sportsplex collected and all the locks changed at the order of the city council. “Scotty Corbin was told the city council wanted his keys back because the council wanted to change the locks,” Bullard said.
“We never discussed that,” said Councilman Shawn Sanders.
“We appreciate all you do for the kids, and anything that we can do to help build up the football program in Vernon we want to do,” Hawkins said. “We want to make it enjoyable for the kids.”
City Clerk Dian Hendrix said a locksmith had indeed shown up last week to change locks in the city.
“Were the locks changed?” Hawkins asked.
“As far as I know,” Hendrix said.
“Well, the city council didn’t approve it,” Hawkins said.
If the city is going to change locks, Hendrix suggested the city look into electronic locks, where pass codes can be reset instead of replacing the hardware each time.
“The Sportsplex locks are the same keys as the bathrooms at Shady Grove Park,” Hawkins said. “If you have thrown away all those keys, then now we need to go change the locks at Shady Grove, too.”
Sanders asked what was the purpose of the recreation board and when it met. No one on the council seemed to know when and if the recreation board did meet.
Kathy Foster, publisher of the Foster Folly News website, pointed out to the council that the recreation board falls under Florida Sunshine Law requirements and meetings must be advertised so the public may attend.
Hendrix said she would look into the recreation board meeting schedule.
“I think we need to discuss this further at the Nov. 12 workshop,” Chairperson Tina Sloan said.
“We need to get this fixed,” Hawkins said. “We’ve opened a can of worms, here.”