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Recreation bond boosters make case

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Say county needs to borrow $19M, build rec facilities

By Gregory A. Summers

The Nov. 6 election ballot includes the county’s first bond referendum to fund recreational facilities – $19 million for five projects stretching from Indian Land to Kershaw.
Supporters of the referendum, who are making their case to taxpayers at community meetings, say the need is obvious.
With Lancaster County setting the pace for population growth in South Carolina, they say, the county’s per-capita spending on public recreation totaled just $13.50 a year when Clemson University conducted a detailed study in 2015. The average S.C. county was spending about $50.
Nationwide this year, counties in our population category are averaging $81.30 per capita, according to the National Recreation and Parks Association.
No organized opposition to the referendum has surfaced publicly at this point.
Lancaster County is severely underfunded and underserved when it comes to public parks, trails, programming and recreational facilities, said Pam Trimnal, one of the leaders of the Be In Favor campaign for the referendum. (She also led a grassroots campaign for the $199 million school bond referendum that passed in 2016.)
“Measures like this bond issue will give us tremendous momentum to change that tide,” Trimnal said during a July public hearing on the recreation bond referendum.
If approved by the majority of county voters, the $19 million will require a $16 to $17 annual increase in property taxes on a $100,000 home.
“I think that’s more than worth having something we can truly be proud of in all corners of our community,” Trimnal said.
The 5 projects
County Council was responsible for getting the yes/no question put on the ballot, but under state law the council members can’t stump for or against the measure.
After months of planning, research and cost estimates, council winnowed the list to five projects. They include:
• $5 million for a soccer complex on Kershaw Camden Highway between Heath Springs and Kershaw

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• $4.9 million for a soccer complex on county property near the Avondale development on Harrisburg Road
Each soccer complex will have two rectangular, synthetic turf fields with sports lighting, restrooms and concessions facility, storage facility, bleachers and a playground.
• $4.3 million for remodeling and expanding the Indian Land Recreation Center on U.S. 521  with new gym flooring and new flooring throughout the existing facility, addition of a new full-court gymnasium that can be used as two courts crosscourt on the same floor, more restrooms and meeting/classrooms, addition of a foyer and front desk at the facility entrance, addition of a storage room/mechanical room, new upgraded and expanded parking lots and new HVAC and lighting in the facility.

• $2.5 million to partially fund the first phase of the Lindsay Pettus Greenway – The $2.5 million will go toward the first 2 miles of the 5-mile trail system and the Environmental Education Center, including a nature pavilion, parking area and Gills Creek viewing piers.

• $200,000 in improvements to the Barr Street auditorium – The Barr Street Auditorium will get new house lighting, stage theatrical lighting, a sound system, a mounted projector and screen, curtains, carpet, a lockable control room and updated windows.
Trimnal said the children playing soccer in Heath Springs have to practice in the outfields of baseball fields on College Street and on an unlit field on Solar Road beside Heath Springs Elementary School.
But the Solar Road field will be lost. One of the projects in the $199 million school bond is traffic upgrades near Heath Springs Elementary. Part of the Solar Road practice field will be paved for a traffic loop for buses and car riders. That project is set to start before the end of the year.
Trimnal said the shortage of quality recreation facilities is an obstacle in recruiting new employers to the county.
“The good news is, that’s something that is easy to do something about,” she said. “We need to stop thinking small. We need to start exploring the possibilities and dream bigger. We won’t get the opportunity to do this over.”
No plan ‘B’
Sherri Gregory, another leader of the bond supporters and president of the Lindsay Pettus Greenway, said if the bond doesn’t pass, there are few options to fund the five projects.
One would be the county hospitality tax. Passed in 2016, the 2 percent tax applies to all establishments that sell prepared meals and beverages in the unincorporated areas of Lancaster County.
Gregory said the county’s recreation needs are too great and too immediate to wait on that money to be collected. County officials are also trying to hold on to hospitality tax revenue to build a multipurpose sports park that is comparable to Cherry Park and Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill.   
“Moreover, raising private funding for projects like this that cost millions takes years, and we simply don’t have the time to wait. The demand is here now,” Gregory said. The county has “more children clamoring to participate in sports like basketball and soccer than we have facilities to accommodate them.”
Public meetings
Two public meetings on the recreation bond have already been held. Supporters met with the Indian Land Action Council and held meetings in Van Wyck, Heath Springs and Kershaw.
“We will also be providing information at the Indian Land Fall Festival on Nov 3-4,” Gregory said. 
Details on the recreation bond are available at www.parksandrecbond.com and on the Facebook page, Be In Favor.

Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at (803) 283-1156.