MILTON — With a tiebreaking vote from Mayor Heather Lindsay, the City Council voted to cancel its memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Main Street Milton (MSM) and gave them 30 days notice to give the city and MSM the option to negotiate and draft a new agreement that would protect the city legally.
"I voted as I did to break the tie because I have always had strong concerns about whether the city was legally protected," Lindsay said.
This action was prompted by council members concerned that MSM was going against the Sunshine Law they had agreed to operate under. MSM's critics have also questioned their grant-awarding process for downtown businesses. Another concern was that two Milton city employees worked at and reported directly to MSM instead of the City Manager like all other city employees.
The council has been approached by MSM Executive Director Ed Spears and events coordinator Stephen Prestesater who had met with MSM board president Cassandra Sharp about a new MOA. Spears said under Sharp's draft of the MOA Spears and Prestesater would no longer be city employees.
"The city is my employer," Spears said. "That was what was envisioned when I took this assignment. Removing the city from that equation puts us on an island I am not willing to stand on."
Spears said he had concerns about the direction of the program, which lead him and Prestesater to come to the city manager and request that they be removed from MSM.
"We have given a great deal of time and effort," he said. "From a personal perspective, I've seen no improvement in 16 months. I've worked very diligently to build bridges (and) it simply has not materialized."
Councilman Casey Powell made a motion to send this issue back to the committee of the whole. Councilman George Jordan quickly amended that motion.
"The amendment was to discontinue the MOA as prescribed in the MOA, by having staff give notification to MSM and terminate the MOA," Jordan said.
The amendment passed by the tiebreaker vote. The council also voted on a motion to have City Manager Randy Jorgenson write a letter notifying MSM that the MOA will terminate in 30 days. That motion also passed by a tiebreaker vote from Mayor Lindsay.
MSM was brought back into existence last year after being dormant for a number of years. Since that time the program, which has been staffed with the two city employees, has been the subject of various concerns from city residents and officials including concerns about transparency and Sunshine Law violations.
The program won the Honor Award and the Merit Award from Main Street's national organization for their services to the community and redevelopment and leadership. Under Spears and Prestesater, the program brought activities to downtown Milton including Bands after Dark and various festivals. MSM had been in talks to take over the management of the historic Imogene Theatre until negotiations fell through following concerns by an outside vendor.