Recreation Debate Rages On

FAIRFIELD – After a nearly three-hour executive session devoted to legal counsel Monday night, County Council once again tackled the issue of recreation; specifically, the long-promised, much-debated facility in the Dawkins community and how $3.5 million in recreation funds from this year’s $24 million bond issue can be used [see the July 12 edition of The Voice]. While the debate was intense, the result was the same as Council’s July 8 vote – another 3-2 defeat for the Dawkins facility.

Councilman Mikel Trapp (District 3), one of two votes for his motion to allow each individual Council member to use their earmarked $500,000 of recreation funds in their districts as they see fit, walked out of the meeting shortly after the vote. Trapp’s exit came after Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) instructed Council to come up with a plan on how the recreation funds should be used and to do so within two months.

Trapp, however, said he had no interest in taking part in another two months of debate.

“I’ll have no discussion,” Trapp said. “I’m going to excuse myself, because it’s going to be another round of what we’ve been through the last however many years. Ya’ll have a good night.”

So saying, Trapp departed.

The debate, which raged for nearly an hour, was essentially a rehash of two votes taken during Council’s July 8 meeting – one to begin construction of the recreation facility (approved by Council in 2006) on 8.12 acres off Ladds Road and another to allow Councilman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) to use the $500,000 of earmarked recreation funds for the same project. Both votes failed, 5-2 and 3-2, respectively, with only Trapp and Marcharia, as during Monday night’s round two, voting in the affirmative.

On July 8, Councilman David Brown (District 7) said putting up the proposed building in Dawkins would shortchange District 4 and suggested additional time to study the project. Vice Chairman Dwayne Perry (District 1) supported the idea of more homework on the project, something he reiterated Monday night. Perry added that he felt that expenditures of County funds, even if earmarked for individual districts, should be approved by the full Council.

“I think any decision on how that money should be spent should come back before full council,” Perry said Monday night. “What I would like to be able to do is to hear from the folks who actually live in District 1. I would like to go back to them and have a community meeting. Maybe one or two. I’m not talking about a long time frame.”

But Marcharia said his district was ready to move forward.

“I think you should do that,” Marcharia said. “But why do you want to hold my project up? Are you willing to wait seven years? We’ve been waiting seven years or more. We have our plan. We had the blueprints drawn up. We’ve got people from the community out there (in the audience) right now with their children.”

Trapp agreed, adding, “I don’t think it’s right to hold up other districts’ projects when they have already done their due diligence and got the surveys from their community to decide what they want in their community. Even if Mr. Perry doesn’t fully have his to the point where he wants to have it, we still can vote to allow the Council members who have got to the point where they can start to put recreation in their district.”

Trapp also called Perry’s suggestion that Council get input from County Recreation Director Lori Schaeffer, “another stall tactic.”

“Members who don’t want to spend the money for the people in their district, just leave it in the pot,” Trapp added, “but still, let’s vote on the members that are ready to proceed on recreation in their area.”

Marcharia said that Schaeffer had indeed provided input when she presented Council with several options for the Dawkins site during the July 8 meeting – one for $895,000, one for $720,000 and one for $483,000.

“Last week (Schaeffer) submitted a whole engineer’s price study, because we asked for it,” Marcharia said. “You (Perry) haven’t asked her to do anything for your district and you haven’t talked to her of your own volition, I don’t have anything to do with that, but she clearly looked at ours and gave feedback last week.”

Councilwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) said the issue for her was not about recreation, but about how Council approves expenditures.

“The worst thing that has happened this year as far as us voting on money was to pass that bond issue and to say $3.5 million was to go to recreation and that each district was to have $500,000,” Robinson said. “I don’t think one person was elected to spend that kind of money on their own. It takes a minimum of four to approve that, just like it takes four to approve if we’re going to put a new roof on a building.”

Furthermore, Robinson said, “Even if we built that building tomorrow, we have zero money in this budget to even turn the lights on, let alone go in a deal with what we have to deal with in running a program in that building.”

But Marcharia, as he had done during the July 8 meeting, said the project could be done in stages to accommodate the budget, as were many other projects within the county. And, he said, the community was willing to do their part.

“We just built a commerce center (on Peach Road), and there’s no staff there,” Marcharia said. “No staff, but it was built for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and probably won’t even open for five or six years. The community is ready to roll up their sleeves and get involved with this. They’re not putting this all on the taxpayers.

“I know there’s a serious issue around budget issues and whatnot,” Marcharia said, “but over the years other Council members have gotten exactly what they want in their districts. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. We just gave the hospital $1.5 million, with no interest. Just gave it. Four hundred thousand in loans. I don’t hear anyone object to that.”

Robinson, Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6) and Perry ultimately voted against the measure. Brown left the meeting following the executive session and prior to the debate. Ferguson did not cast a vote, but said after the meeting that, had his vote been necessary, he would have voted against. He said he was skeptical of the ability of the Dawkins site to serve the most people in District 4 in spite of assurances by Marcharia during the debate that it would.

Comments

  1. gmd123 says

    As this article indicates; there is very little consideration for Fairfield County as a whole. Each District wants to make sure they get their slice of the pie, and a little bit more if possible. It’s this attitude that creates an inflated tax burden and spends money on unwanted / unsupportable projects. If the greatest need in District 4 is a recreation center – “WE” should build one!

    I’m in District 2. Due to the ridiculous drawing of District lines, there is no way to fairly position anything for all the folks in our district. I’d rather our district not waste $500K “just to get our share”. Besides, are we going to start baring people that live outside a District from using what is supposed to belong to the whole county? Clearly county resources could be better spent and positioned if we considered the whole county as opposed to dividing the pie seven ways and handing it out to seven districts.

    I wonder if people realize that 5 of the 7 districts could spend their $500K on parks and recreation within 3 miles of Winnsboro? Would that make any sense at all? Have a look at the District map on the County website. We must stop behaving as though we are 7 independent districts.

    Maybe it’s time to realize that government by District Representation is not working. It creates division and disparity within our county. We all want our Representative to fight for our district to ensure we get something back for the taxes we pay. It creates resentment and destroys all sense of county unity. Perhaps we should return to an “at large” County Council that will consider the needs of the whole county. I’d rather have the chance to vote for all county council members than to vote only for the one from my district.

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