It took over an hour of hearing both sides of public opinion and a tiebreaker vote from the mayor to decide the City of Milton will not allow Sunday liquor sales in downtown Milton.
It was standing room only in the city council chambers Tuesday at five o'clock when citizens, business people - even a former mayor showed up to support or not support the possibility of alcohol sales in a specific area zoned the tourist development district.
Five people were allowed to stand and speak their minds for three minutes each - five for and five against the ordinance. The arguments against came from a variety of community leaders - pastors included - who said they believed if the City allows the sale of liquor on Sunday, even if it is closely watched and controlled, it will inevitably spread to other restaurants in the City, then on into the northern end of Santa Rosa County.
Those for liquor sales on Sunday said the approval of the measure would generate growth for the riverfront community. They argued that a drink with dinner is not a negative. Even a member of the military stationed at NAS Whiting Field spoke to say he knows of a lot of servicemen who would stay in Milton on weekend nights if the proposal passed.
Meiss stole the show by talking about transparency in government and seemed to be hinting at violations of sunshine law involving the mayor. He specifically brought forward a copy of a letter sent by City Planner Randy Jorgensen to the Supervisor of Elections office in February asking what the cost would be to take a vote before the public. Meiss stated the inquiry was about goings-on in his own district that he was unaware of. He also made mention of a conversation he'd had with Thompson when the City first proposed buying the Scott property that fronts the Blackwater River - the planned location of the new restaurant affected by the Sunday alcohol sales vote.
Meiss said at the time of the sale he was told by Thompson that the purchase of the property would involve a public/private partnership with a third party who remained unnamed. Meiss said the third party remained invisible to him despite his inquiries. He referred to this situation and again mentioned transparency in government.
While the crowd was mostly agreeable, there was an occasional applause and shouts. One shout from Peggy Smith ended with her being escorted from the meeting by the Milton Police Chief Greg Brand at the behest of Mayor Guy Thompson. Smith became upset when Thompson continued to talk about transparency in government - and addressed Thompson from her seat.
Thompson spoke on some of the issues Meiss brought up then Jorgensen took the podium to address the reasons for his email to the Supervisor of Elections, saying it was his job to have answers when asked. It was at this point Meiss attempted to address Jorgensen and was cut off by Thompson, who took the conversation back to the vote.
Councilman Grady Hester posed the motion in the negative by saying he requested the original proposal not be put in place. Councilwomen Pat Lunsford and Councilmen Buddy Jordan; Wesley Meiss; and Clayton White voted "no". Councilwoman Marilyn Jones and Councilmen R.L. Lewis, Lloyd Hinote; and Grady Hester voted "yes" - creating a tie. Thompson ended the tiebreaker by voting "yes" and killing the ordinance to allow liquor sales on Sunday in the tourist development district.
To view video from Tuesday night's meeting, visit our facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10200903944109879&set=vb.284030690309&type=2&theater .