HIGH SPRINGS – Citizens sat through another contentious meeting on Thursday, April 24 that led to the removal of one citizen by Acting Police Chief Antoine Sheppard at the direction of Mayor Byran Williams.
Although Williams has suggested removal of argumentative citizens at previous meetings, this is the first time he has actually followed through. The individual escorted out by Sheppard was in a wheelchair and may have been a veteran as was later claimed by another citizen. He did not settle down when asked to do so, but instead kept wagging his finger at the mayor and ultimately wheeled his chair over Sheppard's foot as he was being escorted out. When he was admonished by Sheppard for doing so, he denied it had happened at all.
At that Commissioner Bob Barnas quickly stood up and said he didn't feel well and was going home.
Commissioner Linda Gestrin also got up and left the room. City Clerk Jenny Parham followed to ask if she was also leaving, and Gestrin said she was not. She came back shortly thereafter, picked up her items and left. Due to the previously planned absence of Commissioner Scott Jamison, the commission no longer had a quorum and the mayor closed the meeting with none of the new agenda items addressed.
Prior to closing, commissioners heard from several members of the High Springs Farmers' Market as part of the agenda item to approve a short-term contract with Basti Gonzales to continue to run the market until September.
Gonzales will continue on a month-to-month verbal agreement and City Attorney Scott Walker will draw up and advertise a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in an attempt to locate a permanent market manager.
Another old business item addressed was a request by Bryan Sperry to purchase a piece of city-owned property adjacent to his own. Commissioners decided the city should create a surplus property policy for any property the city believed had no usefulness. Properties deemed surplus would then be advertised to allow any interested citizen to bid on the property. Booth said he would look at the existing plans for Tillman Properties to determine if the property had usefulness to the city. No action was taken to sell the property during the meeting.
A lengthy report on his findings regarding an earlier survey of computer equipment at the High Springs Police Department was conducted by Eric May. The report addressed certain specific items which most of the audience did not have a list of or a copy of the report. Barnas asked most of the questions, adding that he was talking with employees and conducting his own investigation. City Manager Ed Booth objected to the commissioner questioning his employees as it would violate the City Charter. Barnas then clarified his earlier statement saying he was talking with “former employees.”
Resident Sylvia Newcomb commented that the city manager should resign, which then set off some audience members who started clapping at her suggestion. At this point one person was escorted out of the meeting.
A special meeting was called for Wednesday, April 30, to consider approval of a time-sensitive contract with WCA for solid waste services. Without an approved contract, citizens would not have their garbage picked up on Friday, May 2, the contract start date.
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