The Dawkins Dance

There can be little question that Fairfield County Council has had a considerable amount on its plate in recent weeks. Most of it in cold, curdled lumps.

While the flames from the most recent County Administrator scandal continue to lap about Council’s ankles, Monday brought an opinion from the State Attorney General that expending taxpayer funds to cover supplemental health insurance for a trio of Council members, and spending taxpayer funds to pay for one Council member’s college tuition, is contrary to the laws of this state. Monday night’s Council meeting also reverberated with strange and unpleasant rumblings that the County may have mishandled seven years’ worth of Local Option Sales Tax money – money with the unfortunate acronym ‘LOST’.

A great deal has yet to be sorted out on these opinions and allegations, but things are starting to pile up so fast it may take a fleet of wreckers to cull through the debris before it is all over. Still, Council had one opportunity Monday night to get something right – to deliver on a seven-year-old promise and provide Western Fairfield with a recreation facility. A facility already bought and paid for and that has been sitting on the ground in crates like the final scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” since the last Bush administration.

To the surprise of few and the disappointment of many, Council failed to do so.

The rationale of the majority that construction of that building would consume the entirety of District 4’s recreation budget, and then some, cannot be disputed. However, when the Councilman from District 4 correctly asserted that large projects, not unlike the industrial park, can be tackled in increments, that argument should have gone out the window. Sadly, it did not.

In 2006, Council voted to allocate $500,000 to the now defunct Recreation Commission to put that building up in the Dawkins community. After all the legal fireworks that later replaced the Commission with the Recreation Department, halted construction and netted the County one un-crated building, some of that money – in the neighborhood of $400,000 – remains. But where? And wherever it is, who voted to put it there? The Councilman from District 4, and certainly his constituents, would like to find out. So would we. For if you combine the remainder of that 2006 money with the $500,000 allotted for each district in this year’s bond issue, District 4 is, in theory, sitting on close to $900,000 to play with. And that’s more than enough to cover any of the proposals presented to Council Monday night for the Dawkins site.

Monday night’s No vote also set an interesting precedent for future recreation spending. By essentially telling District 4 that they could not, contrary to what we were led to believe when the bond issue was passed in March, do what they will with their recreation money, Council has set themselves up to debate and argue and vote Yea or Nay on every single district’s recreation funds.

Finally, suggestions made Monday night by some Council members that churches and schools in Fairfield County should be the ones stepping up to the plate to fill in the county’s recreation gaps were, frankly, disappointing. Schools exist to educate our youth. Churches exist to enlighten our spirit. Recreation is the responsibility of the County government. It is time they accepted that responsibility and fulfill their promise to Western Fairfield – even if it takes them 10 years, even if they have to build it one brick at a time. But build it.

Until a start is made, there will indeed be no end in sight.

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