County Takes More Rec Flak

WINNSBORO – More than a month after new County Council members began hinting that they wanted to get their hands on the County’s $3.5 million comprehensive recreation plan, Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) has yet to place the item on the agenda. At the outset of Monday night’s Council meeting, Billy Smith (District 7) asked Robinson about the potential for future discussions on the matter.

“I asked for it to be placed on the agenda for this meeting,” Smith said. “You and I spoke on that. I’m OK with that, if we set a work session date. Do you intend to set a work session date for that tonight, to discuss recreation and be able to bring back some ideas or times that Council might want to address at the next meeting of Council?”

Robinson said she would, “in the near future,” set a date for a work session on the recreation plan, but that it would be “for information only.”

Smith responded by voting against approval of the agenda.

The public, meanwhile, weighed in during the second public comment segment of the meeting.

Fay Sandow, a District 4 resident, noted that only the plan for District 3 had come in under its $500,000 budget and encouraged the other six district representatives to “go back to the drawing board to review your plans to stay within the budgeted amount,” she said. “If one district can come in under budget that’s proof enough that the other districts can also.”

District 1 resident Randy Bright questioned the inclusion of genealogy in the District 7 plan, and asked if, should the plan go through, the Recreation Department would then own the genealogy building. Bright also questioned the total real costs of the plan, to include utilities and upkeep.

In an unusual response to public comment, Interim County Administrator Milton Pope said the County knew from the beginning that the early estimates on the plan were over budget.

“However,” Pope said, “it was mentioned at that time that we also included several other things in the recreation when we plan on the bid; that was the fire stations and the EMS stations, because what we’re trying to get is cost savings based upon the bidding to bring that under the $3.5 million amount.

“And it was said at that time to the Council and to the public that if in fact that amount, once we got those final numbers back, once those projects were bid out, the Council then would be faced with the question of whether or not that we had to go back and strategically reduce things.”

Council presented the plan to the public and voted to accept the plan in a single meeting last September. In a presentation of the plan prior to the vote, David Brandes of Genesis Consulting said, “We’re not trying to get down to the exact budget. We want some ability for the marketplace to play a role. If prices come in better than we anticipated, we wanted to take advantage of that.”

District 3 Councilman Walter Larry Stewart, who first suggested Council may want to review the plan during a March 23 meeting, again pushed for a review Monday night. Stewart said he was concerned whether or not Council had budgeted completely for the three recreation centers on the drawing board as part of the plan.

“Before we build new centers, we need to repair the equipment and the building and playground equipment in the existing areas,” Stewart said. “We should develop a comprehensive recreation program that ties into our programs for our seniors, our after-school programs and what the citizens really want. We need to present options for the citizens to select from.”

Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6), on the other hand, said she had held four community meetings in her district prior to bringing her plan to the table.

“I had a total of seven people to attend those meetings,” Kinley said. “They were advertised months ahead, and we just couldn’t get people to come out. You can try to be in touch with your public, but sometimes they are just not interested in what we’re doing.”

Kinley said the seven who did attend were active enough to canvass the community and bring ideas and suggestions back to her over the last year or two leading up to the finalization of her plan.

Councilman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) said recreation has been a drawing card for neighboring counties, which he said have outgrown Fairfield over the last 10-15 years. And, he said, recreation plays a large role in economic development. Marcharia said he feared a delay to the plan.

“We’ve been arguing about recreation, this particular plan, for three or four years,” Marcharia said, “and the citizens in here could have been here, long ago, giving us advice and helping us figure this out. Now that we’re down to the wire to make a decision, everything’s going to change and I just think that’s going to be another prolonged disaster for Fairfield County. It looks like we’re never going to get to development for quality of life for our citizens.”



  1. Norm_Nav says

    And on and on it goes, Council continues to discuss an issue that is of the former council’s creation for no reason other than the cookie jar was opened. The newly elected members need to see the forest for the trees. There ought to be a majority on that Council that can bring sunlight to the process.

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