Discussion of the future of the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s Thursday’s concert series got intense at Monday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting as chamber president Judy Morehead and Commission Chairman Rob Williamson tangled over past conversations involving the event.
The NBACOC has applied to have the 2017 concert series on Navarre Beach Gulf-side instead of Navarre Park as county leaders have expressed concerns about traffic on U.S. Hwy 98 being a safety hazard for the event. Sheriff Bob Johnson indicated to Morehead that he would not support the event in the coming year with deputies.
Morehead said even so, she was under the impression that the event could be held in the park for one more year. “I think there is this misnomer out there that I was trying to throw the BOCC under the bus. That was not the case at all,” she said during the meeting. “I had some individuals saying to me ‘oh maybe we can still have it in 2017’ so we were still working toward that. I had individuals saying ‘no, this is not going to work. We are going to have to go to the beach.’ So the hope was to be able to get everybody in the same room, to look united. However I was still getting mixed messages from individuals who were in positions to say so that maybe we can make it work this year.”
Williamson asked Morehead point-blank who had misled her. “You did,” Morehead responded.
“Knowing that it is a safety issue the Navarre Chamber has stubbornly not wanted to move the event. I began coming to you last year saying ‘what’s the plan for moving the event?” Williamson said. “I will ride with you to go look at alternate sites. Let’s survey the members. Let’s talk to the people that are against moving the event. You didn’t want to do that.”
But Morehead said that is simply not true, “You’re a liar.”
Text messages and emails, obtained by the Navarre Press from Morehead, confirm meetings and conversations of moving the concert series were ongoing between Williamson and Morehead as far back as September 2016. Morehead said at that time they discussed the beach as an option.
The messages include scheduled and proposed meetings that were canceled by Williamson on multiple occasions or emails that were not responded to.
During the Monday’s board meeting Williamson raised his voice, telling Commissioner Bob Cole not to speak, as Morehead said Williamson was lying about how their conversations up to this point had went. Morehead later apologized during the meeting for calling him a liar, but stood by what she had said occurred.
The future of the concert series is even further muddied by the six-month-old Greater Navarre Area Chamber of Commerce which has applied for a Thursday evening concert series on the beach for 2018.
NBACOC member Norm Crowder said if this event is approved in advance, it would kill any chance of the NBACOC event continuing in 2018. The chamber has been holding the event for 10 years.
Cole said the chambers had made their problem the commission’s problem, and he advised that they let the chambers sort it out. He recommended some form of policy to govern how far in advance applications could be filed.
GNACOC President Tony Alexander said it was not their intention to stop the NBACOC from continuing the concert series. He said they applied to continue the concert series on the beach because the original chamber had not yet applied.
“The only action of theirs that we considered in our determination to submit an application was the fact that as early as this month they had not taken the opportunity to move the event out of Navarre Park,” he said. “So we were going to submit an application regardless of whether they submitted for 2017.”
But the NBACOC had submitted an application in January that was later pulled by county staff from the agenda. While this application did still list the park as the location, Morehead explained that she was trying to bring all the parties to the table for discussion so the park could finally be officially ruled out or be approved for one more year with a change of venue for the next.
She said in a previous conversation in September Williamson had said the beach would be a viable option for the original chamber’s event, but as recently as the Jan. 23 county commission meeting Williamson had spoken of Thursday’s in the Park continuing in Navarre Park. Morehead said it was these comments that led her to believe they would hold it in the park one more year before finding a new location. She said she needed clarification so they could move forward.
“I needed to get it submitted to get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ so I can start hiring bands,” she said.
She said after the application was pulled she was told by County Administrator Tony Gomillion that she could just submit a letter to get the discussion onto the agenda. She did, but by then the GNACOC application had been submitted and the NBACOC’s application was rolled in with the letter as one agenda item.
The commission will vote on both applications Thursday during their regular meeting in Milton.
As seen in the Feb. 23 issue of Navarre Press. Click here to subscribe for as little as $38 per year.