Community fun day doesn’t go as planned

Published 8:33 pm Thursday, August 10, 2017

A day billed as a community fun day didn’t go quite as planned.

Councilwoman Angela Benjamin and Mayor Darrio Melton sparred at Tuesday night’s council meeting over city services provided at last month’s Community Fun Day. The event was organized by Benjamin and part of her One Hot Summer Series.

Benjamin told Melton she sent him a request in well ahead of times for city services like police and fire protection, chairs, tents, tables, portable toilets, trash bins, a stage and more, and none of that was provided for the event.

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“What is going on? What is happening when we send a request down to you all?” Benjamin asked.

“The police chief doesn’t know. The fire chief doesn’t know. Public works don’t know. Recreation doesn’t know.”

Benjamin said the only thing provided for the event was a tent and chairs and a police officer after she contacted Police Chief Spencer Collier.

“I followed up, and no one knew that the request to your office had been made. No one showed up on time,” Benjamin said.

Melton said one of the key issues asked about — closing Water Avenue to street traffic — had to go through the police department first.

“To block off Water Avenue, any request goes to the police department,” Melton said, adding that paperwork was never filed. “It doesn’t get to my office until you put in a request that you want it blocked off.”

Benjamin asked Melton if he received her email, and Melton repeated the request to close a street has to start with the police department.

Melton said he thought most of the requests had been fulfilled but the stage was broken, and the city doesn’t have some things asked for like volleyball nets.

Benjamin said almost no work was done for the event, and she doubted anything would have been done if she hadn’t bumped into recreation director Sean Vandiver at an unrelated event.

“I got the tent and the tables, and that was it,” Benjamin said.

With that, Police Chief Spencer Collier added, “And one police officer.”

Melton also asked Benjamin how many people attended the Community Fun Day. That exchange is below.

MELTON: “Can you inform me how many people were at the event?”

BENJAMIN: “No, I didn’t count.”

COLLIER: “There were 11.”

BENJAMIN: “11 … 11 what?”

Melton also said the request for city services was “a request and not a mandate.”

Collier said he had to bring in an extra officer on overtime to staff the event, and he had that officer do a head count.

The Times-Journal could not confirm how many people attended the event.

The Community Fun Day took place July 29 from 3-6 p.m. on Water Avenue in front of the St. James Hotel. It was billed as having music, food, games, line dancing, karaoke, and vendors.