…City of Columbia, Parks and Rec Department
Colony/North Pointe Recreation Project Phase 1 – $88,914.74
Colony/North Pointe Recreation Project Phase 2 – $ 274,376.15
Yes, you read that correctly. Richland County money that our county parks could use for safety and other improvements went to the City of Columbia – for a new park. For perspective the City already has 60 city parks and green spaces; 600 acres of city-maintained park land; 55 tennis courts; 16 city pools, spray pads and ponds; and 9 city-maintained fountains.
I discovered this after I stopped in my State House Office the first day back from a family vacation. (Yes, I kept in touch while away, returning constituents calls, working with colleagues, making a request of our Speaker and calling in from Montana to Keven Cohen’s show when the bombshell of VC Summer news broke. More on that tomorrow.)
When reviewing the paperwork from the “FY 2017-2018 PARD (Parks and Recreation Development Fund) Recurring Funds Allocation booklet” that SC PRT mails to House/Senate at the end of July, I came across the lines items mentioned above “Columbia, City of Parks and Rec. Dept”. I’ve discussed PARD funds before on this website. Bottom line, PARD funds are allocated each year to COUNTY DELEGATIONS to be used for parks and recreation.
Much has been written about the mess with the Richland County Recreation Commission for many years on my website ) and I was pleased to see a group of my colleagues finally come together and support the push for much needed change at the Commission. In addition, I was pleased to see them agree for my push a new way for the delegation appointed members (the old way is what helped empower the former Director and led to the many problems that have been finally reported).
We have finally restored some confidence and trust in that department by replacing the former commissioners with individuals chosen from more than 60 applicants – all given a chance to speak before the delegation.
Earlier this summer, after the delegation secretary forwarded an email PARD request to the entire delegation for the Bookert Heights Community (which I shared with a colleague I would support), I replied to the entire delegation:
“How have we decided to handle PARD going forward? There is (sic) LOTS available to impact our communities and I want us to all be able to help our areas. I remember Chairman Neal had us “divide the money evenly”. Recently, it seems we have individual requests coming in. I’m supportive one way or another; but want to be sure the delegation is aware of the enormous amount available and that we work together for each other. Thoughts?”
Our delegation chairman responded: “We have usually wanted to make sure each member has an opportunity to make this important resource available to their constituents where appropriate. We have not done it always the same way. I will reach it (sic) to staff today and reply to the group with an update on the fund.”
There was no update until today when I opened the report. Worse, the update showed me that not only did the request everyone received not get approved, 2 OTHER requests were approved that the entire delegation DID NOT RECEIVE.
I called PRT and learned that 52% of the weighted average of the delegation had signed a letter of support. While a majority is required, what should be EXPECTED is that the delegation discuss these matters together – in meetings – not continue to have individual House members and Senators work to garner support from just enough colleagues to get 50.01% and not let the entire delegation know of their request.
That is what happened with these requests. Under secrecy, a money grab was made. As if that was not enough, the money – GIVEN TO COUNTY DELEGATIONS – was handed over to the City of Columbia.
Shouldn’t the City pay for their own parks?
Shouldn’t these delegation decisions involving hundreds of thousands of dollar be vetted in public at delegation meetings?
Out here in our area, the answer to both those questions is Yes. Where you live, I’m pretty sure that answer is Yes, too.
Maybe the approved project for the City is worthy and would have been supported anyway. Maybe. But our delegation cannot continue to spend money in this manner. YOUR MONEY. County tax dollars going to City project…and not even debated our discussed by the entire delegation.
I’ll continue my push to make these reforms to the way Richland County delegation operates. We need more meetings. We need more discussion. We do not need rogue officials supporting City projects with money that our county parks can use.