Bell quizzed on disparity of funding for rec centers

WINNSBORO – Drawdy Park is a recreation hub in Fairfield County.

More than 300 kids compete in baseball, softball and other sporting activities during the peak summer season.

It’s a place where proud parents cheer on their sons and daughters as they triumphantly round the bases. It’s a place where memories are made.

“Drawdy Park is the most concentrated park with the most kids in Fairfield County,” said Councilman Doug Pauley.

But there are no lights for evening games. Games must all be played before dark. Storms knocked out park lights at least a year ago, and the lights remain inoperable.

Contractor estimates recently zoomed from $31,000 to $51,000. Funds to fix the lights are not included in the 2022-2023 budget, which received second reading Monday night.

Meantime, in the nearby Town of Ridgeway, with a population of 266 residents, ground was recently broken on a $2.5 million recreation center previously funded by Fairfield County Council.

Pauley took note of the disparity Monday night.

“It just blows my mind that the place where the most kids in Fairfield County play can’t even get the lights to play in the evening time,” he said.

County Administrator Malik Whitaker said the Drawdy Park lights were placed on a list of unfinished capital projects instead of brought to County Council as an action item.

Whitaker attempted to explain further when Council Chairman Moses Bell, who represents Ridgeway, intervened.

“Mr. Whitaker, don’t sit there and take that,” Bell interrupted. “This is just something to bring up to start stuff.”

“What amazes me is we’re spending dollars everywhere else in Fairfield County, but where the most kids are at in Fairfield County, we can’t even get the lights replaced,” Pauley countered.

Assistant Administrator Synithia Williams said the Drawdy Park lights must go through the formal procurement process.

She noted the $51,000 estimate came from only one contractor, and doesn’t necessarily represent the actual cost.

“There is no capital funding to replace those lights. That was not in the current budget,” she said. “There is some funding in the operations account that could go toward replacing the lights.”

Bell inferred that blame rests with the previous administration, since he said the lights were damaged months before Whitaker’s arrival.

He thanked Whitaker and Williams for their efforts, and hoped the lights would be fixed by June 30.

“We want to thank you for the work you’ve done to correct these things that have fallen in the cracks,” Bell said. “I want to thank you for your diligence to get this work done as we should’ve been doing all along.”

Earlier, council members voted 5-2 on second reading of the proposed $41.3 million budget.

The final budget will likely change as council members have yet to approve the budget motions list, which typically includes individual projects added or deleted prior to third reading.

During public comments, Ridgeway resident Randy Bright criticized the proposed budget over its lack of transparency and efficiency.

He specifically targeted Midlands Technical College (MTC), which he said spends only 37% on instruction and offers only two classes per semester at the Winnsboro campus. MTC has requested $155,100 in county funding for FY2022-2023.

“That tells me, like the other organizations that we’re dealing with, they’re not as efficient and effective with our money as they should be,” Bright said.

With third reading of the budget expected later this month, a number of important documents have still not been made available to the public or council members:

Motions list

  • Budget worksheet
  • Operational summary
  • Income statement
  • Balance sheet
  • Audit

Comments

  1. Joseph Novaro says

    Once again the some of the Members of the Fairfield County Council Apocalypse believe they are above the law. No transparency of information to the public, wasting money, and never basing their decisions on the need of the community. I don’t care what anyone else thinks, someone is benefiting from this circus, and I will keep investigating until I find the answers. Some of them really need to be fired !!!
    Joe Novaro – Winnsboro ( one of the Forgotten 58)

  2. Angela Harrison says

    Again there is misleading information. The Town of Ridgeway is not getting a rec center. District 1 is getting it, where there are approximately 2,500 people and lots of children. Years have been spent with the county pouring money into Winnsboro parks without equitable funding for other districts. Why shouldn’t our district and children not be afforded the same rec opportunities. Had our last county rep proceeded when he promised he would, this center would not be costing so much. Instead, he gave back what had been allocated for our district. Please report correctly and stop being biased.

  3. Angela Harrison says

    The rec center is NOT in the Town of Ridgeway. It is in the county district 1, which has around 2,500 population. Please get the facts correct.

  4. Jeff Schaffer says

    How many people will actually use this center? We put one inJenkinsville and its empty 90% of the time,
    Doesn’t it make sense to do polling from all the residents and see if they intend to use it and how often?

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