There were some tense moments at a Lake Helen City Commission meeting March 26, before an impromptu “Happy Birthday to You” singalong lightened the mood.
The usually sedate City Commission meeting erupted in fractious debate as the elected officials reviewed the job performance of event coordinator Kelly Frasca, who has held the position for six months.
It started with Commissioner Jim Connell questioning why members of the City Commission had not received copies of Frasca’s review by city employees.
“I remember seeing some kind of evaluation,” Connell said. “Where is it?”
“It kinda looked like this right here,” Connell said, producing a copy of the report. “Why is this not in the agenda packet?”
Further discussion revealed that the new city administrator, Becky Witte, and Mayor Daisy Raisler, had met with Frasca March 22, and they discussed Frasca’s evaluation and the agenda for the upcoming meeting.
Commissioner Rick Basso, who recently rejoined the City Commission to fill a vacant seat, immediately moved to table Frasca’s review until all the commissioners could read the report. Connell, however, said he wasn’t ready to table the matter.
“This hearkens back to days when Jason Yarborough was here and not giving us information,” Connell said, referring to the former city administrator, who resigned after failing to inform the commission of a $56,000 water-bill error.
Some members of the small public audience began to grow unruly; others paused their knitting.
Concerned that decisions were being made without the entire City Commission’s involvement, Commissioner Tom Wilson chided the mayor about the March 22 meeting.
The meeting did not violate Lake Helen’s charter or the Sunshine Law, and Mayor Daisy Raisler grew visibly frustrated.
“If I am doing a wrong job, I need you to tell me,” Raisler said.
“It just seems to me more care should be taken,” Wilson said.
Basso again motioned to table the review. This time, he was seconded by Vice Mayor Vernon Burton, and the commissioners voted in favor, with the exception of Connell, who cast the lone “no” vote because he wanted to continue the discussion.
During the public forum that followed, longtime Lake Helen resident Betty O’Laughlin spoke in favor of Frasca, calling her “the bargain of the century.”
O’Laughlin suggested that commissioners recruit event volunteers to help Frasca.
“And if you all would like to wish me a happy birthday, yesterday was my birthday,” O’Laughlin said, prompting the City Commission and the audience to join in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to You.”
Tension broken, commissioners determined to continue with Frasca’s review as soon as possible.
Before Connell asked about the evaluation paperwork, the largest controversy involving the event coordinator revolved around the tension between growing the city with events, while keeping the soul of a small town.
“The city should be able to allow an influx of people to come into the city, enjoy the city, and then go home,” Burton said.
“We don’t have anything to keep them here in Lake Helen, not that we want it,” resident Doris Kohler said.
She added, with a laugh, “I’ve been here over 30 years, and I’d like to see it go back to horse-drawn carriages, which is what they had when I came.”