Future of Recreation Plan on Tap

WINNSBORO – A little more than a year after rolling out their $3.5 million countywide recreation plan, and two months after opening bids on the project that came in at more than twice that amount, County Council is expected to discuss the plan once again during their Monday night meeting.

“I hope to report to Council on Monday on a significant portion of that information,” Interim County Administrator Milton Pope said last week, “where Council can hopefully vote on proceeding with the plan.”

But that plan may be a much leaner plan than the one Council debuted shortly before the November 2014 elections overturned four of the seven districts.

Council Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) said at last week’s intergovernmental meeting in Winnsboro that the County was working to get a better price than the $7,453,044 low bid opened on July 14 from Loveless Commercial Contracting of Cayce. Both the prospective new fire station in Ridgeway and the EMS/fire station in Jenkinsville, which were included in the initial bid for the recreation projects, have been carved out to be bid as separate projects, Robinson said, and Council members have been reviewing plans for their individual districts.

“Each district has submitted some ideas, and based on that some of us are working together to put a facility in quadrants of the county,” Robinson said at the Sept. 17 intergovernmental meeting. “Hopefully once we get all of this worked out, it will be ready to roll out … it will be exactly what we want.”

Pope told The Voice this week that negotiations were ongoing with Loveless and probably would continue right up to Monday’s meeting. By Monday, Pope said, he hopes to be able to bring revised numbers back to Council, who will then decide how to proceed.

“It may necessitate some additional trimming,” Pope said, “but then again, it may not.”

Pope said the final savings of removing the fire stations from the project had not yet been determined, and trimming down projects in each individual district has always been a prospect.

“We want some ability for the marketplace to play a role,” David Brandes, of Genesis Consulting, told Council during his original presentation of the plan last September. “If prices come in better than we anticipated, we wanted to take advantage of that.”

But with the price coming in at more than twice the budget, changes may become a reality.

Billy Smith (District 7), one of the new Council members elected in last November’s sweep, has long been a proponent of reviewing the overall plan. Smith said Tuesday he was prepared to take a serious look at his district’s component.

The initial plan for District 7, when it was represented by David Brown, came in at $644,440 – well over its $500,000 budget – and included an outdoor basketball court, a baseball/softball field and improvements to the Genealogy building. The ball field, Smith said, was slated for the land surrounding the HON building; but with that facility being refitted for the temporary location of the County Courthouse while renovations are under way there, that land is now destined to become a parking lot.

“So that’s out,” Smith said. “And I’m sure the (Genealogy) part will be taken out as well.”

Smith said there had also been discussions about Robinson’s District 2 combining with District 3 to construct a recreation facility somewhere near district lines.

District 3, now represented by Walter Larry Stewart, was the only district to come in under budget, at $499,337, when the plan was unveiled. Then represented by Mikel Trapp, District 3 called for four playgrounds, a basketball court and equipment. District 2, meanwhile, was looking for a community center and a combination EMS/recycling facility.

“No one has expressed (these changes) to me,” District 4 Councilman Kamau Marcharia said this week. “Some (districts) were over budget and had to make changes, but we have not had that kind of conversation.”

District 4 has had a consistent plan for recreation for many years. When that plan, which includes a community center, was officially presented last year it came in at $641,660. But, Marcharia said, then-Councilman Trapp had pledged any unused money from his district to District 4. Before the plan was made public, District 6 Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley made a similar pledge.

But with the initial estimates in which six of the seven districts exceeded their $500,000 budgets, there may be little, if any, money left over to share. How money is shared, if there is any to be shared, is another matter for discussion Monday, Smith said.

“Any changes would have to be voted on and approved by the full Council,” Smith said. “District 7 will change as long as Council gives its approval.”

 

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