By a two-member vote, the Tourist Development Council demanded the City of Milton return $30,000 during the March 20 meeting.
Jack Sanborn, TDC member and owner of Adventures Unlimited, motioned to “Send a letter to the (City of Milton) mayor that until the two grievances are taken care of, signage … and Vernon (Compton) on the (committee) that we don’t fund anymore projects in the City of Milton and we expect a return of the money for the master plan.”
Dorothy Slye, TDC member and owner of The Pier, Inc., and Sanborn were the only two members that voted on the motion.
The issue revolved around the TDC’s approval of providing $30,000 to the City of Milton for developing a conceptual development plan of a riverfront master plan on the condition that TDC Chairman Vernon Compton be on the steering committee.
All recommendations from the TDC must go before the board of county commissioners for approval. This request went before the BOCC on Dec. 13, 2012 when the commissioners approved $30,000 be carried forward to the City of Milton.
“The TDC approved that money at the November board meeting and that I be the TDC representative on the steering committee,” Compton said during the March 20 meeting.
The condition Compton serve on the steering committee was not included in the documents to the commissioners when they approved the request at the Dec. 13 commission meeting. The request was only to approve the TDC’s recommendation to allocate $30,000 from TDC funds to the City of Milton.
Milton Mayor Guy Thompson appointed Kyle Holley, TDC member and United Way of Santa Rosa County director, to the steering committee. Compton did serve on the selection committee that ultimately selected the consulting firm Peter J. Smith & Company, Inc. to help develop a comprehensive Riverfront Master Plan. However, Compton was not selected to serve on the steering committee.
“I never received correspondence or minutes that it was voted on by the board … It was more of an indication that a (TDC) board member should be on there,” Thompson said in a follow-up interview. “I appointed Kyle because he has a deep background in hospitality … (and) deep roots in the area … and he was on the TDC so they would be represented well.”
For the Sanborn and Slye, Holley being on the steering committee was not an issue. It was Compton not being selected by the mayor that was an egregious act.
“This is extremely serious, an affront to me and the TDC,” said Sanborn. “Vernon is more qualified than anybody on this list … it’s really a slap in the face. This is the second time the city has made this type of gesture.”
Sanborn went on to air his grievance that the “Welcome to the City of Milton” sign did not read “The Canoe Capital of Florida” as the TDC recommended about six years ago when TDC funds were used in part to help erect the sign.
Sanborn’s company, Adventures Unlimited, offers canoeing and kayaking, among other recreational activities, on Coldwater Creek and through the Blackwater River State Forest.
The sign instead reads: “Where Good Living Begins.”
“We have two NFL Players and three PGA players from this area – there are a lot of things to be proud of that we can’t fit on the sign,” said Thompson. “There are bigger fish to fry. My goal as mayor is making sure the citizens of this city are served well.”
Thompson added he had not been contacted by any TDC member about their “condition” that Compton serve on the steering committee, nor was he aware the item was added to the TDC agenda.
Slye took that same stand as Sanborn regarding the perceived slights by the city.
“If they don’t want our input then they don’t want our money … so Randy you just need to give us that $30,000 back,” Slye said.
Randy Jorgenson, the City of Milton planner responded that if pressed, the city would probably return the money but he didn’t think it was a sound approach to problem solving. He added he received a directive from the county commissioners, not the TDC.
“Let me tell you, the $30,000 was a directive I received from (Commissioner Jim) Melvin at a BOCC meeting,” Jorgensen said.
Holley and Compton abstained from voting, as did Clayton White, city councilman and TDC member, and Mike Loera, TDC member and regional revenue manager of The Hampton Inn & Suites of Hotel Equities.
“I don’t think I can vote on a political disaster,” said Loera.
After passing the motion with just two votes, Slye commented there were enough votes to carry the motion, adding: “(It would be) really good if you all could abstain every time, that way Jack and I could get some work done.”
The recommendation will have to go before the commissioners for final approval.