After telling Historic City News that she has been “getting nowhere” with County Administrator Michael Wanchick since February, Mary Lawrence, an organizer for the liberal-leaning, but non-partisan, political group “Indivisible St Johns”, made an official request to use the county auditorium for an upcoming meeting.
That request was formally denied by the administrator during Tuesday’s meeting, without objection by members of the Board of County Commissioners.
The group, which organized a counter-event to the Republican Party rally recently held on the grounds of Castillo de San Marcos, has held two previous meetings that were reportedly attended by about 400 people. The first was held at the city-owned Willie Galimore Recreation Center and the second at the county-owned Ponte Vedra Concert Hall.
Lawrence told commissioners the group is self-funded and even though meetings are always announced and open to the public, hall rentals, insurance and permits keep the fledgling organization low on cash.
Thus far, the League of Women Voters has been the only non-government or non-government sanctioned organization that has been allowed to use the auditorium since it was moved from the courthouse complex.
Wanchick says he’d like to keep it that way because of the cost associated with its operation, security, sanitation and maintenance. Lawrence disagrees saying, “We feel as taxpayers the facility should be available to us as a large civic association for a nominal fee.”
She said about 400 people are on their email list and that their facebook page has more than 700 followers. For the time being, however, Indivisible St Johns will have to find other venues willing to work with the group.