Legal opinion coming on recreation funding

Kevin Boozer Staff Writer

September 17, 2013

WINNSBORO — Debate continues as to what a fair and equitable handling of the community recreation situation in the Dawkins community will be.

Fairfield County Council will discuss that matter as part of a called work session Sept. 18 in council chambers. The meeting is open to the public.

Councilman Kamau Marcharia maintains that county council should honor the monies committed in 2006 to the western side of the county to erect a recreation facility there.

However, as Interim County Administrator Milton Pope understands the situation, the now defunct Fairfield Recreation Commission was once a special purpose district. When that district was dissolved, he said, the remainder of the $500,000 in county revenue allocated to erect that building was returned to the county general fund.

“When the special purpose district dissolved, the recreation department was taken over by the county,” Pope said.

Pope said he looked through council minutes from that era and has not seen any documentation that indicated those funds were set aside for the recreation building once the commission was dissolved.

Pope said as he understands it, the funds — roughly $361,000 — might have been mixed and mingled through the county budget but that all the money has been accounted for with the disputed funding being absorbed into the county’s general fund.

During the Sept. 9 county council meeting, Marcharia questioned if the transfer of the funds into the county’s general fund was an appropriate transfer.

According to Pope, there is no documentation that states that those dollars should only have been earmarked for that project at that time. Pope said the money was accounted for and he has verified the building in question is in storage in the county.

Unless the minutes from meetings show a special request that the recreation funding in question be clearly set aside for a building project, then Pope said those funds would have been absorbed by the county’s general fund.

After reviewing county council minutes, Pope said he has not seen any documentation he believes stipulates those dollars should have remained earmarked for western Fairfield County.

Marcharia said to his recollection there was never a vote taken to move the disputed funds from the special purpose district back into the county general fund. He believes the funds should have been marked separately and held in reserve, so that now the residents can get what he argues is rightfully theirs.

Marcharia wants the remainder of the $500,000 to be paired with the $500,000 recently allocated to District 4 under a bond issuance so that his district will have funds for erecting a recreation center. In his point of view, one shared by many residents of the Dawkins community, the money allocated for county recreation in 2005-06 should stay with the western side of the county.

Pope said county council will have a legal opinion from the county attorney on the matter of recreation funding prior to its work session Wednesday night.