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Show me the money

A Column by the Editor
web posted July 9, 2009
COLUMN – The spectacle surrounding the Northside Park and Edgefield County Councilman Norman Dorn in search of a $19,000 toilet is over the top when the county is strapped for funds. And notice the word is toilet, not toilets, that is the cost for a single toilet for a park very few use, much less have even heard of. Of course, Norman Dorn is taking his queue from County Council vice chairman Willie Bright. There are problems with Bright’s pet project at Bettis Park too, unaccounted for monies.

First of all let’s back up a minute and survey the situations. What do all county operated parks have in common? Exclude parks in Johnston, Edgefield, and Trenton, as these parks belong to the respective towns and receive a fraction of the allotted $200,000 in “recreation” funds this year (down from over $400,000).

Bettis Park and the Northside Park are both owned by churches (or church associations to be more specific) connected to their respective councilmen, Democrats Dorn and Bright. The county does not own the properties, the respective churches do. Once the leases on the properties expire or are cancelled, the parks will revert back to their owners with all the improvements included, for free.

Now, keeping that in mind, the unending fight for a bathroom at the Northside Park continues because the ground will not peculate and allow a simple brick or block restroom to be installed. Of course, why a park that sees about as much traffic as the Rocky Shop in Edgefield which has been closed for years, is in “need” of restroom facilities is beyond me. 

Rev. Melvin Gordon addressed the Edgefield County Council Tuesday night asking what the county council members could do to help get the facilities installed. “I just need some understanding,” Rev. Gordon said adding he had to go back to “some people and tell them what we are doing and what’s not being doing and keep everyone informed… and we depend on this council and uh, you gentlemens and you ladies, to make the decision to tax payers money to help us develop that park.”

Help them develop the park? Help implies both parties are contributing to the funds rather than sitting back and whining over not getting something for free.

While we’re talking about free, let’s take a look at the not-so-mobile mobile concession stand at Bettis Park. County Councilman Willie Bright just had to have the “mobile”
concession stand at three times the cost ($60,000) of a conventional structure then removed the wheels and trailer tongue as soon as it was in place.

However, the stand is operated during county recreational sponsored programs selling goods and making a profit but no one knows where the money from the sales is going. We know one thing for sure; the money is not going to Edgefield County. The Edgefield County Budget shows a mere $1,000 a year coming in as concession sales - and that is attributed to basketball games, which are not held at Bettis Park.

The sales pitch offered by Councilman Bright at the time of the purchase was that the money made from sales at the stand would pay for the purchase.

However, we have a county owned (overpriced) concession stand, located on a county operated park, during county sponsored recreational events, making cash money and no one knows where all that money is going? In fact, at a recent county council meeting Edgefield County Recreation Director Nick Wates said he did not know who was even operating the stand and that no receipts were collected.

Excuse me if I call that odd, if not downright inappropriate.

Before we go pouring money into another “park”, maybe we need to find out where the money generated at the first one is going. And while we are looking at money, “gate fees” and “registration fees” need to be separated. I have a funny feeling the cash money received at the gate at Bettis Park is just as accountable as the money at the county owned concession stand that no one knows anything about.

Somebody is making money but it isn't the county.

Where is the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division when you need them?

Show me the money!

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