Williamson: Commissioner of parks and rec

Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners and District 4 commissioner Rob Williamson has proposed a $6 million Navarre Park renovation – or reno as it is popularly called on DIY shows. Only this is no DIY.

To be clear, updates and upgrades are needed at the park. A new splash pad is needed, updated playground equipment, refurbish some of the pavilions – but $6 million?

In a recent Tourist Development Council meeting where he rolled out the $6 million plan, Williamson referred to Navarre Park as having “special status” because of its high-profile location. He also called it a “tourism destination.” As far as we know, the beach is the real tourism destination. And while some tourists do find their way to the park, on any given day there are more locals there than visitors. Using bed tax money to partially fund this project is a stretch at best.

At the same meeting, Williamson said, “…right now I believe that we can fund this without diverting any funds that we would use for stormwater.” There are two things wrong with that statement: “I believe” leaves it open to uncertainty, as in I believe it could rain tomorrow; and “right now” indicates that circumstances could change later. The right statement would have been, “There is absolutely no way any funds that could be used for stormwater improvements will be used to fund this project.”

In April, Williamson said he wanted to pull the $6.8 million project to restore Tom King Bayou Channel from the list of projects that could be completed with the half-cent sales tax. This area was  identified as one of the largest projects needed to solve some of the flooding issues in Holley by the Sea The commissioner wanted it pulled because it “tips the scales” in terms of funding for each district. In other words, he felt it was unfair for his district to get so much money from the tax. Yet $6 million is not too much to spend on a park renovation.

This may all be a moot point if Hurricane Irma comes our way. There will be much more to be concerned about at that point other than a park renovation. But commissioner – please get your priorities right. Yes, a park sounds a lot more glamorous than stormwater improvements. But do you really want to be known as the parks and rec commissioner or would you rather people remember your term for all of the hard work you put in to making a difference in the people of Navarre’s lives. Stormwater improvements or park? If you are looking for a “legacy” project – please choose stormwater improvements.

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