By Betsy Finklea
In a 4-3 vote, the Dillon County Council decided to purchase a lot beside Gordon Park for parking as part of an overall improvement project at the park being funded by the state.
Chairman T.F. “Buzzy” Finklea, Jr., called on District One Councilman Jamal Campbell to talk about the Gordon Park project.
Campbell said the recreation committee met about a month ago and discussed Gordon Park. He said some preliminary plans were presented to Senator Kent Williams who helped them secure funds for the project, which will include a commercial kitchen, bathrooms, and a picnic shelter at Gordon Park.
Campbell said when he presented this to Senator Williams to ask for the funding that Senator Williams asked him what was the county going to do and what was the county’s “skin in the game.”
Campbell said he mentioned to him that it has been discussed since Councilman Goings was on council about purchasing the lot across from the park for about $4,000. The price has now gone up to $8,000. He said he had talked to County Administrator Clay Young and Winna Miller about the county purchasing the lot as “their skin in the game” since the state had provided funding for the project.
Campbell said the lot, which is currently owned by the state, will be used for parking. He said he didn’t know how many times the council had gone down to the park, but if they are playing ball or having a function, there are cars all along the court because there is no parking. He said they wanted to make sure kids could run and play without someone backing into them.
Councilman Stevie Grice asked if he could say something. He said he had no problem purchasing the land, but we’re getting a $300,000 grant and he didn’t know why they weren’t using the grant to purchase the land. Grice said he was at a committee meeting the day prior to this meeting, and he got handed a package by Winna Miller. He said the package had stuff on there such as county council purchases the land for $8,000; preparing the land for parking, a question mark for how much; county council tables and chairs, picnic, cooking utensils for kitchen, etc.. “Who decided county council was going to buy that?,” asked Grice. Young said council hadn’t decided it. “Ya’ll handed me the packet, I mean, I’m saying, somebody had to decide that to get handed a packet. Who was it?,” Grice asked.
Campbell said again the council’s skin in the game was to purchase the parking lot across the street for $8,000.
He said he didn’t say how much the grant was because the project had to be bid out and never every contractor who watches the meeting will know how much they got. Grice said it was stated at the last meeting. Campbell said it wasn’t. Grice said it was, and Campbell again said it wasn’t.
Grice said this was just his opinion, if we got $300,000 from the state I think that is plenty of money to improve the park and that is what it is for, to improve the park. He said some of this stuff may be a little much, like walk-in freezers, walk-in coolers, etc., but he really didn’t care as long as it is within the $300,000.
Grice said now they are talking about purchasing the land for $8,000. “How much is it going to cost to prepare the land for parking? Surveying it? Packing it? Bringing in dirt? Paving it? Rocking it? How much are we talking about? And we’ve got it under the county,” asked Grice. “Utensils, stuff for the kitchen. We don’t know how much the county is talking about spending. But I think, I don’t care what he spends out there as long as it is within that $300,000 and don’t bring it out of the general fund.”
“How do we have specs on the whole building and drawings when it is state law that you hire an architect to do that?,” asked Grice.
“That’s why it is preliminary,” said Campbell.
“Who done it? Who done it?,” asked Grice.
“That doesn’t matter,” said Campbell.
“I’ve got a good idea,” said Grice.
“You don’t go before somebody and ask for something,” said Campbell before Finklea interjected to try to clear up the matter.
“Jamal is saying they don’t want us to use the $300,000 because they are giving us the $300,000,” said Finklea. “Right,” Campbell said. They want us to put something in, Finklea said.
Councilman Christopher Miller asked if the county had the $300,000. Campbell said that was guaranteed money, and it will be here in October.
Again, Miller asked if we have gotten the $300,000. We haven’t got it yet, have we, Finklea asked. Joy Snipes replied no sir. It will be here in October, guaranteed money, said Campbell.
Grice said he hasn’t heard Senator Williams say they need to spend their money on that.
Miller said he had a problem buying the land until they had the money in hand.
“We’re putting the cart before the horse here because we don’t know even how much it is going to cost to prepare the land,” said Grice. He said they were talking about $8,000. How much for the rest–question marks. Are you going to do that anywhere else I don’t know, asked Grice. Like I said, Grice said, I have no problem purchasing the land. Purchase it out of the $300,000.
“If we don’t purchase the land and show good faith, we might not ever get the $300,000,” Finklea said.
“So now, he just said it was guaranteed,” said Grice.
The $300,000 has been voted on, Campbell said. It has been voted on; they are not taking it back, said Grice. Again, Campbell said, the county has to show that they have a vested interest in this project. “That was part of the agreement,” said Councilman Gerome McLeod. “That was part of the agreement,” Campbell reiterated.
“Where’s the agreement?,” Grice asked.
“Who negotiated this agreement?,” asked Councilman Harold Moody.
“Who negotiated this agreement?,” Grice asked. “Who has the agreement? Nobody with the county knows this.”
“Well, I’m sitting here,” said Campbell. “I represent the county.”
“You represent one councilman, a seventh of the county. You don’t do negotiations for the county,” said Grice.
“Stevie, “ said Campbell.
“I’m not trying to say it. That’s like me going to do negotiations for the county. You say you don’t negotiate stuff for us,” said Grice.
Campbell said it’s done all the time. Campbell said there was an issue years ago when a $45,000 was bought for the ex-Sheriff without coming to the council and nobody said anything. “We’re talking about $8,000,” Campbell said.
Grice said if a $45,000 vehicle was bought the administrator signed off on it because the council can’t. “With pressure of who,” said Campbell. Grice said, “With pressure, I don’t know about that.”
Grice said he was not arguing. He was just saying his opinion, which was that it should be bought out of the $300,000.
Campbell said there were seven councilman up here, there was a motion on the floor, we can vote on it, and if it passes, we get it and if it doesn’t, we’ll come back to the drawing board. Grice said he was just stating his opinion on it. “That’s all I did,” said Grice.
Finklea then called for the motion. Campbell made the motion to purchase the land. McLeod seconded it. Councilwoman Detrice McCollum-Dawkins, McLeod, Finklea, and Campbell voted to purchase the land. Moody, Grice, and Miller voted against it.
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