County to Tackle Recreation Roadblocks

WINNSBORO – After months of head-butting and debate, County Council announced Monday night that they will finally lay the groundwork for how they plan to proceed with recreation projects, the funding for which was earmarked in this year’s $24 million bond issue, at a work session on Sept. 18 in Council chambers at 6 p.m.

The announcement of that agenda item raised question from Councilman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) on what criteria would be used to determine which projects moved forward, as well as a question about what became of money previously earmarked for recreation in his district.

Council Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) said the Sept. 18 work session would determine “the manner in which we select recreation for each individual district; meaning, will it be left up to that Council member from that district, or will it be left up to the entire Council?”

Efforts by Marcharia to move forward on construction of a recreation center on 8.12 acres off Ladds Road were voted down by Council in July. Marcharia moved to utilize the $500,000 earmarked for recreation in his district from the 2013 bond issue to begin construction, but was thwarted on a 3-2 vote. Marcharia also moved to use the remainder of a $500,000 allocation made by Council in 2005, but was also defeated, 5-2. In both cases, only Marcharia and Mikel Trapp (District 3) voted in favor.

Since then, Marcharia has questioned the legality of transferring funds earmarked for a specific function back into the general fund without Council approval, which is exactly what happened, he says, with the 2005 recreation funds. Monday night, Marcharia again asked for a legal opinion.

“I’d like a legal opinion on that,” Marcharia said, “whether or not Council is supposed to vote on that or can you just take that money and put it where you want and spend it, or does it come back to Council for appropriation?”

Those funds, interim County Administrator Milton Pope explained Monday night, were part of the Recreation Commission’s budget. When the County took over the Commission in 2006, those funds, along with the Commission’s entire budget, were absorbed into the County’s general fund. And, Pope said, there is nothing in the County’s records that indicate the former Recreation Commission money absorbed by the County had to be used for recreation once it was in the County’s general fund.

“We’ve gone back and looked at the minutes, and at this point there is no documentation that says that those dollars should have been only earmarked for that project at that time,” Pope said. “It’s in the County general fund bucket, unless when the County (took over the Recreation Commission) they had specific legislations or requirements or in the minutes that said all that was remaining (in the Recreation Commission budget) can only be used for that, and at this point when you go back and look at your minutes, at least my reading of it, it doesn’t say that.”

Pope said he would have an answer for Marcharia during the Sept. 18 work session.