Editorial: Another school year and still no recreation plan for Clinton
A new school year has started, marking the ninth year of school since the City of Clinton began charging a hospitality tax and an accommodations tax. And so we begin another school year in which there is no plan in place for the city to provide any recreational facilities for our kids – or adults. We have beat this drum for years to no avail. Sure, some progress has been made. City Council appointed a 3-member recreation committee that has met a number of times the past two years. The last meeting was with a half-dozen representatives of Presbyterian College. The public was excluded from that meeting – a contractual matter was being discussed – but the committee voted for the city and PC officials to work together on a possible recreational contract. The contract, once developed, would have to be approved by both city council and the PC board of trustees. There’s been no word since the meeting, which was held after the first of the year. The city has indicated time and again that it cannot build and maintain a significant recreation complex on its own. Partners are needed to make any plan viable, we have been told. Potential partners are the Clinton YMCA, PC, Thornwell and School District 56. The college seems the most viable partnership option, but we wonder how long it’s going to take to get a document through the bureaucracy – both government and private. How long will we wait? Other cities are doing it alone. We really hate to keep throwing up Laurens as an example, but it’s true. They are light years beyond the talking stage. A new $3.3 million building opened last week with two gyms, offices, a kitchen and room for meeting and receptions. It will be highly used and should generate some of the money needed to maintain it. Laurens plans to pay for the building by using both proceeds from an accommodations and hospitality tax on all prepared food, drinks and motel rooms in the city and also a general obligation bond. Both Clinton and Laurens have a citywide hospitality tax (2%) and an accommodations tax (3%). When Clinton’s HTAX and ATAX went on the book in 2007, the city identified two priorities: develop a first rate recreation facility for softball, baseball, tennis and a water park; and implement a greenways plan in and around the city. By state law, up to half the funds raised by the taxes can be spent on capital projects (construction) and up to half the funds can be spent in maintenance of facilities. Cherokee County is asking voters in November to approve a $6 million bond issue to build a recreational complex on Lake Whelchel. Bids came in $2 million too high. County officials admit the bids were on a “gold-plated” complex based on the outstanding Tyger River complex in Spartanburg County and will be trimmed to fit the funds. Cherokee County is spending about $400,000 to put lights on an existing softball complex. The county’s recreation district is paying 25% of the cost. Mayor Bob McLean has said he wishes Clinton could work with the Laurens County Parks and Recreation Department to develop a recreation complex. But, realistically, that’s not going to happen and, on the off-chance some sort of partnership is reached, the location is not going to be where Clinton officials would want it to be. “We can do a lot better,” McLean said in May, 2014. “We’ve been the same way for 25 years.” Change that to 27 years. And counting.