LaRon Bennett, the chair of the Urban Redevelopment Agency, announced his resignation effective Dec. 31 at the end of Thursday’s special called meeting.

Bennett said he would remain available to help in any way after his resignation goes into effect.

“I’ve enjoyed serving with you all,” he said.

City Commissioner Felicia Harris said she was “surprised” by Bennett’s announcement, thanking him for his service.

“I’m glad you were chair,” she said.

Al Verheyn, vice chair of the URA, also praised Bennett for his service to the city.

“Nobody has volunteered more time than you,” he said. “I want to thank you.”

Mayor Cornell Harvey, who will appoint a new chair to the URA, thanked Bennett for his service.

“You’ve done a great job leading this organization,” he said.

The meeting was called to discuss updated plans for the extensive renovations planned for Mary Ross Park.

Bennett told URA members the estimated cost for a splash pad, support buildings, fencing, bathrooms and showers is about $544,000, but that cost could be reduced.

A request for a variance to eliminate showers and dressing rooms would reduce the cost of the project.

“You could present alternatives to reduce costs,” said Robert Ussery, an architect involved with the project.

Harris also suggested the city public works department do some of the work in-house rather than hire a contractor.

Bennett said the goal should be to have the pad open to the public by June 1 at the latest.

“We have to go through the approval process,” he said. “It will depend on certain things. We know what we have to do.”

Bennett also suggested the city hire staff to monitor park operations.

“The city will have to rethink the way the park is operated right now,” he said. “Someone is going to have to operate the park during business hours. It’s going to have to be budgeted.”

The regularly scheduled November meeting for the URA has been cancelled because it would fall on Thanksgiving. A special called meeting will be announced for December.

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