Friday, May 17, 2013
Dorchester County Council took a small step last week toward launching an independent parks department by tinkering with membership on the volunteer parks and recreation commission.
The changes weren’t without discord however; Councilman Larry Hargett and Councilwoman Carroll Duncan voted against the change because it didn’t guarantee representation from each district.
The parks and recreation commission currently consists of a county council representative and one person from each of the four park “zones” that were created in the 2009 parks master plan.
Zone 1 encompasses the area around St. George and Reevesville; Zone 2 extends from Rosinville through Harleyville to Dorchester; Zone 3 includes Ridgeville, Givhans and Clubhouse; and Zone 4 consists of Jedburg, Summerville and North Charleston.
Under the ordinance passed last week, the membership will now consist of a county council representative and seven Dorchester County residents.
The ordinance would have required each council member to nominate someone from his or her own district, but Councilman Jay Byars made a motion to allow council members to nominate commissioners from anywhere in the county.
“It’s too important to do this right,” he said, and to have the best-qualified people on the commission.
If there are two people from the same district who are strongly qualified, they should both be allowed to serve, he argued.
But Councilman Willie Davis said nominating two people from the same district would effectively take away the rights of 20,000 or so people from another district that would end up without a commissioner.
Davis voted against Byars’s amendment, but voted with the majority for the final ordinance to pass.
Councilman David Chinnis pointed out the existing commission doesn’t include representation from each district.
The new ordinance at least gives each council member the opportunity to nominate someone from his or her district, he said.
The parks and recreation commission has some huge tasks ahead. It is continuing planning the St. George courthouse park, Pine Trace and the Ashley River site.
County Council approved hiring Thomas & Hutton to work on a conceptual plan for the Ashley River park site, which will eventually connect to Richard Rosebrock Park, and the commission will likely hold additional public walk-throughs to solicit more ideas for the future park.
Council has also briefly discussed in budget workshops whether to hire a full-time parks director to oversee its burgeoning parks portfolio.
That’s a step that most appear to agree will need to happen eventually; whether it happens in the coming fiscal year is still a question.