JENNINGS, Fla. — An issue with a church fencing off an alleyway led to a heated argument at last week’s Jennings Town Council meeting.
Resident Harry Pennington opened the Thursday meeting by taking issue with a fence that was being placed by Jerry Pittman, a member of the town council, at the Jennings Missionary Baptist Church, located at 1294 Oak St.
The church property neighbors Pennington’s property and both are connected to an alleyway, which is public due to town utilities that are accessed through the alleyway.
Pennington asked the council why the church was allowed to block the public alleyway.
“Really, you would think one of the best neighbors that you could ever have would be a church house,” Pennington said, adding he’s had issues previously with the church and that it should fence off its own property instead of the alleyway.
Pittman said he and other members of the church are tired of having to clean up after Pennington’s cats, calling them a “disgrace to the community.”
Pittman added that fence posts from the church were stolen once before but the new ones were in concrete and the church would continue to put up the fence.
The argument between Pittman, Pennington and his brother C.W. Pennington continued until Councilwoman Samanta Prueter interrupted.
“First off, it is an alleyway, it belongs to the Town of Jennings,” Prueter said. “I love the church and I love the people of the town. At the moment, unless the Town of Jennings officially decides to close that alleyway, then it can be fenced off. But at this point the Town of Jennings has not closed the alleyway.
“We would have to issue a public hearing, but if it hasn’t been officially closed properly, then it cannot be fenced off.”
Pittman said that in the council’s April 2 meeting, it voted to close alley.
However, the April 2 minutes indicate the church was given permission to move forward with the fence and gate as long as the town had a key in order to access the utilities whenever needed.
When the heated argument continued between Pittman and the Pennington brothers, Police Chief Vincent Robinson stepped in to help regain order of the meeting.
“This is not going to be over for me until those posts come down,” Harry Pennington said as he was escorted out of the meeting by family members, who were following Robinson’s advice.
The council unanimously agreed to have the town attorney look into the issue.
Later in the meeting, Town Manager George Glover told the council that Hamilton County officials were creating a way for the towns to work with the county in regards to code enforcement.
Prueter, though, wasn’t sure that was a good idea.
“There is a reason there is city, county, state and federal, and that is so that each of us have power over our own area,” she said. “I’m not sure if I want the town to give up the power we have.”