By Susan Reeves
There are a lot of changes being made in our community right now. Sometimes change is a good thing, and sometimes change is not such a good thing. One thing that is certain is that change is inevitable.
The Optic-Herald received several calls this week about the events that unfolded at the Mount Vernon City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 8. Each call we received was from people flabbergasted at the chain of events that led to three long term members of the Economic Development Board being removed. The Optic did not receive calls from anyone in support of these actions. Charles Lowry, Margaret Sears, and Greg Carr were not renewed for the board. Paul Lovier, J. D. Baumgardner, and Libby Milton were voted onto the board to replace them.
It was all conducted in a completely legal manner, but the concern was the lack of “civility” as one caller put it. The statement was made at the meeting that none of the “incumbents” had requested to stay on the board.
“I did not know I had to request to remain on the board. I never had before, and no one asked me what I wanted to do,” Margaret Sears, a 10 year member of the group, said.
The EDC board is a group appointed by the city council as an advisory committee. It was formed many years ago when a 1/2 cent sales tax was implemented and designated to further economic development in Mount Vernon. The EDC’s job is to peruse applications for use of this funding and then make recommendations to the city council regarding awarding funds for the documented projects. The group is part of a “checks and balances” system for the City.
Several members of the EDC board had made it known during the past couple of years that they did not support using EDC funds to build a swimming pool. They felt the monies should be used strictly for encouraging direct business growth.
During 2010, term limits were set for the EDC board. Terms are required by State law, but had not been adhered to previously. The EDC members drew for one year or two year slots. Mr. Lowry, Mrs. Sears, and Mr. Carr each drew a one year term which “ended” in January 2011. No action was taken at that time to either renew or replace them.
Members of the city council have been working to find a way to fulfill citizen’s demands to have a public pool. They have requested help from Franklin County and Mount Vernon ISD. They have applied for grants and other funding. None have been forthcoming. Local donations have amounted to $1,000, which is a long way from the $1 million needed for the project.
In February, the city council requested the EDC board designate $20,000 for planning a pool and $200,000 toward construction of a pool. The council did not submit a written or a graphic representation of the project with the request. Previously, EDC members had seen information submitted with both the Parks and Recreation and the General Land Use plans.
According to members of the board, they voted 6-1 to deny the $200,000 request. Councilwoman and EDC Board Member Darlene Hatcher’s was the only vote in favor of the proposal.
The way the chain of events played out, there is an appearance that the three board members were removed because they did not vote the way the council wanted. It makes me wonder if the other three dissenting voters, namely, Ken Greer, Larry Scott, and David Weidman, will be replaced next year when their terms expire.
Whether you agree that is was a time for change on the EDC board, or if you are frustrated with how things turned out; or if you think EDC money should not be used to build a pool, or if you think it should; the best way to be heard is to contact your city council representatives.
Another way to be heard is to vote in the upcoming city council elections. Last year, only 212 of the 1,458 registered voters in the City of Mount Vernon cast a ballot for the city council election. That is a pitiful, but typical, voter turnout.
If you think the current council and incumbent members have been doing a good job, then get out and vote for them. If you think it is time for a change, now is the time to be heard. Get registered, pay attention, and cast your vote on May 14.