Discussion on a resolution to "rescind the economic development partnership" was tabled until January.
Apalachicola city commissioners Tuesday evening backed off a move to formally sever ties with Main Street, tabling until January any consideration of a resolution to publicly declared the non-profit organization "has no special relationship with the city."
By unanimous vote, following Mayor Kevin Begos’ recommendation, commissioners approved a motion by Commissioner Anita Grove, and seconded by Brenda Ash, to put the matter off until next year.
The resolution in question called for rescinding the city’s "economic development partnership" with the Apalachicola Main Street group, and stated the city "now seeks to treat Main Street no differently than it does any other non-profit group."
In the discussion that ensued, in which Commissioner Adriane Elliott emerged as the resolution’s chief proponent, the question became what if any such partnership exists. Over the past several months, the city and Main Street have terminated their salary-sharing arrangement for the director of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), and the city no longer provides office space to Main Street.
"I don’t think there’s an economic partnership any longer to dissolve," said Grove. "We should sunset this. To me those ties have already been severed."
Grove said the original 2011 motion, which City Attorney Kristy Banks distributed to commissioners, and which outlined the city’s backing of what was then the newly formed Main Street group , was in keeping with what cities routinely do to support non-profits with their grant applications.
"It’s already been approved and we’re a part of Main Street," said Grove. "I don’t know what purpose it would serve to rescind their original application and program."
Banks said key phrases in the 2011 motion indicated the city commission endorsed Apalachicola Main Street’s application to be part of the state and national organization, and that the city supported the program and would participate in its development and activities.
"I’m a little confused how you all got from this to ‘economic development partnership,’" said Banks.
Commissioner Despina George noted commissioners have not been using the term "economic development partnership" in advocating for a change in the relationship. She stayed out of the debate until the tail end, when Jim Bachrach, chair of Main Street, told commissioners the resolution in question was based on a misunderstanding.
"There are Main Streets throughout Florida and the nation, and they have a partnership or support system that says the city will work together," he said. "That’s all it says.
"Whatever you decide, we’re going to carry on. I suggest just let it lie," Bachrach said.
George responded that "the common thread I see is every time Main Street (addresses the commission), they are quoted as saying there’s so much misunderstanding.
"If there continues to be confusion, then either you’re not conveying your message or you’re not accomplishing what you believe you’re accomplishing," she said.
In her presentation of the resolution, Elliott said "the real relationship that Main Street and the city of Apalachicola had was through the CRA, and it didn’t turn out very favorably.
"I don’t think rescinding this is going to affect anything that Main Street does," she said. "I think it’s important to treat all organizations the same. We should be treating everybody the same way."
Ash pressed her colleague as to the reasoning behind the motion.
"Why would you need to go so far as create a resolution and go on record?" she asked.
"I believe it is my duty to enact the will of the people," said Elliott, noting that during her campaign, she saw "there was a show of doubt on the relationship (between Main Street and the city).
"If people are doubting, I think it’s our job to clarify," she said.
"What are those doubts?" asked Ash.
"What have they done for the Mill Pond? I personally haven’t seen anything done right outside the actual downtown circuit," replied Elliott.
"I don’t understand the rationale," said Ash. "To me it’s good to have a partnership with any entity that’s going to have a positive effect on the city."
Begos sought to clarify that while the resolution would end any formal ties with Main Street, it would not stand in the way of continuing a working relationship.
"I don’t view this resolution as prohibiting Main Street from writing grants and approaching the city on a case-by-case basis," he said.
In her remarks at the outset of the meeting, Augusta West, the former director of the CRA who now works on a fulltime basis for Main Street, said passage of the resolution would "be a step backwards for the city of Apalachicola," send "a chilling message" to officials on a regional and state levels who have worked with the organization, and would be "a slap in the face" to the volunteers who have helped with Main Street’s activities.
She said that while the resolution contains wording that the city "now seeks to treat Main Street no differently than it does any other non-profit group, we are different."
West said Main Staff has long been active in securing grants and technical assistance on behalf of the city, and noted that following Hurricane Michael, the group brought in staff and spoke to representatives on a wide range of issues.
"We have catalyzed community support," she said, noting more than 100 people have devoted more than 15,000 volunteer hours over the years.
West noted that while monies from the city’s settlement with BP over the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill were used to help fund Main Street, and thus "formalized an economic development partnership, that and deliverables have long since ceased to exist.
"I am confused what the purpose of this resolution is," she said.
"We want only to serve the city," West said. "We have excellent professional relations (and we serve as) a grant writing partner in order to accomplish shared goals. With this partnership is a working relationship that costs the city nothing but can reap great rewards."
She listed a number of accomplishments, including growing the July 3 event, which has blossomed into a huge downtown event, starting an annual Easter egg hunt, conducting trolley tours on the Martin Luther King holiday, and winning numerous awards for its work.
West said Main Street has a outlined a busy agenda going forward, including addressing downtown cleanup, landscaping, the Commerce Street pocket park, a historic plaque program, and state historical markers, to name a few.
She read a short letter of support from Nancy Morgan, co-executive director at Tallahassee’s Goodwood Museum & Gardens, who termed the resolution "unnecessary and potentially damaging." She noted in her letter that she and her husband have bought property in Apalachicola.
"All we want is to work for the city and with the city and to continue the good work we have begun," said West.
In wrapping up the agenda item, Begos said the question "to me is what is the relationship going forward? How do we refine that?"
Grove agreed. "It seems like that’s where we need to go, to form the new relationship."
Begos asked Main Street to consider that questions regarding the city’s relationship with the organization were among the main complaints he received during the campaign from residents.
"We need to move forward to a place where you acknowledge there’s been a tremendous amount of complaints (with Main Street and the CRA)," the mayor said. "That’s one of the reasons people are concerned. (Otherwise) I don’t think we would have so many people bring it up."