Students simulate council meeting
West Nassau High School seniors addressed real issues during a mock council meeting Monday.
Students from Sandy Geiger’s U.S. Government class visited the Callahan Town Council chambers and assumed council and supportive roles. Town Clerk Stephanie Knagge moderated the demonstration as Geiger and Mayor Bobby Rau observed the proceedings.
Also in attendance were councilwomen Kathy Smith and Janet Shaw. Councilman David Mellecker and Council President Ken Bass were also offered input. The group project was in observance of Florida City Government Week Monday through Sunday.
The mock council utilized an agenda consisting of recent town items as well as those geared toward their age group. Wyatt Johnson served as council president.
During public input, classmate Kade Dybalski expressed concern about road conditions on Page Street.
“The roads by the Chicken House are messed up,” he said.
Dybalski said that the potholes cause his pickup truck to get bounced around.
“I agree,” said Street Commissioner Adam Boyd. “It is messed up and I will look into it and see what we can do.”
The simulated council discussed possible ways to fund the repaving of Page Street.
“I’ve had some citizens talk to me about the road to Chicken House,” Boyd said.
He said that the town should pay the repaving expenses.
Knagge interjected, saying, “Some of the damage could be due to heavy trucks.”
She recommended that the council look into who’s responsible for bearing the costs.
If the town is responsible, the item could be added to the agenda for additional discussion, Knagge said.
The council also discussed how to financially assist Callahan residents affected by recent flooding.
Boyd suggested distributing funds to those directly affected by the floods.
Water and Sewer Commissioner Logan Braddock said that the council should first survey the flood-damaged areas to assess the situation.
Town Attorney Serina Blume will research ways to obtain financial assistance.
The group discussed the feasibility of adding a skate park and new playground equipment at Ewing Park.
Braddock was interested in maintaining a lower liability for the town.
“New park equipment would be more efficient, because people can get hurt at the skate park,” she said.
Braddock also recommended replacing the tennis courts, reducing the number of swings and updating some playground equipment.
Additional suggestions from the council and the audience included lowering the basketball hoops so that small children can play and reducing the tennis courts to a single court. Installing new water fountains was also mentioned.
Johnson suggested adding police patrol.
This could reduce vandalism and student fights at the park, he said.
After that, the council discussed adding an RV park within the town limits.
The council voted unanimously to approve the item, despite mixed reactions from citizens.
“This is a terrible idea,” Dybalski said during public input.
He added that the park could become dumpy and affect the town’s appearance.
Boyd said, “I think it should only be carried out if we can make it look good.”
Chelsea Alexander supported the RV park. She said it could bring additional revenue and attract more visitors to Callahan.
The council also discussed a donation to the Girl Scouts via Resolution 2017-R10. A troop representative sought a donation earlier this month.
But the item died for a lack of motion.
The group was of the consensus that the presentation could have been better.
Johnson and Boyd agreed that if the Girl Scouts could build a stronger argument for a $500 donation, the council would reconsider the item at a future date.
Following the meeting, Johnson said he enjoyed the mock council.
“I thought it was really fun,” he said.
It was his first experience in the political arena.
“I think it’s interesting, but I don’t think it would be something I would pursue personally,” Johnson said.
Classmate Brooke Toy acted as town clerk.
“I didn’t realize how much goes on in Callahan, but people don’t know about it, like, the complaints that people have about what goes on in town,” she said.
Toy also enjoyed her brief stint as a political figure.
“I never thought about it before, but a little bit,” she said. “It’s very interesting.”
Geiger was pleased with her students’ enthusiasm and efforts.
“I thought they did good,” she said. “I thought it was a great learning experience. I hope they run for office. It was very nice. Mrs. Knagge did a great job.”