VERNON — The mayor of Vernon announced that she will not be seeking re-election during a special city council workshop on Monday.
Mayor Michelle Cook announced that she would not be seeking re-election in March. She gave no reason for her decision not to seek re-election, but said that she would not be involved in the recreation committee next year.
The special meeting was called to discuss the town’s recreation board as well as expansion plans for the city’s Enterprise Zone.
The discussion of the recreation board stemmed from the Oct. 28 council meeting, where there were questions over a changing of locks at the Sportsplex and the usage of the city parks for youth football practice.
At the Oct. 28 meeting, Jason Bullard, a Vernon resident and youth football coach, asked 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.
He also asked why the city council had voted to change all the locks at the Sportsplex, which took the council members by surprise.
Bullard and Scotty Corbin, both youth football coaches, were on hand Monday to further discuss the situation. Corbin also serves on the city recreation board.
Mayor Cook provided the city with an inventory of equipment the city owns and a list of equipment purchased in the past year.
Changing the Sportsplex keys was an action that was not approved by the council, said Council Chairwoman Tina Sloan. “That should have been voted on by the council,” she said.
The council did vote to not allow practice for the Snapper Bowl at the fields because the city did not know what liability it could face. Bullard was not in attendance at that meeting to explain the situation, Councilman Tray Hawkins said.
“If you could have been here to explain, we could have worked it out,” Hawkins said. “Any time you have something like this, come to the council with it.”
The formation of the recreation board was also a topic of discussion.
“Last year we decided as a council we would all work together to keep the recreation department going without hiring a rec director,” Cook said. She volunteered to head the effort and the city advertised for volunteers to form a recreation board. Eventually the five-member board was formed.
However, the board never adopted any bylaws and there is no ordinance for how the board is to operate or how members will be appointed.
City Attorney Michelle Tagert said the city needs to have an ordinance setting the recreation board, along with bylaws that set the goals and tasks of the board.
Washington County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ted Everett was also on hand to present the council with maps showing the current Enterprise Zone and discussed his plans to expand the zone.
An Enterprise Zone is a state-created area for industrial or commercial development that offers incentives to businesses in order to create jobs. Those incentives include jobs creation tax credits, electrical energy tax credits, sales tax refunds for jobs creation and building materials, property tax credits for jobs creation and sales tax refunds for business equipment and machinery.
Last year the state Legislature passed a new law allowing counties to expand their Enterprise Zones, and Washington County will be allowed to expand its areas by three miles, which Everett plans to divide evenly between Ebro and Vernon.
The Vernon City Council approved changing the Enterprise Zone during their Sept. 23 meeting, and Everett is working with engineer Garrett Martin of Atkins, an engineering firm located in Chipley, to create maps of the two Enterprise Zones.
“I think we should expand the Enterprise Zone north of the new bridge, and take the new mile and three-quarters of zone down Moss Hill Road toward the high school as far as it will go,” Everett said.
Everett said the Enterprise Zone legislation is set to expire in 2015, but the Legislature has extended the law setting the zones twice in the past. Everett said he expects the zones to be renewed in 2015. “If that happens, then we will be set until 2025,” Everett said.
The council will meet in workshop again on Nov. 12 and further discuss the Enterprise Zone.