To Citizens of Clinton and the Editor,
Based on questions, newspaper and online articles, as well as comments I and others have heard since City Council passed the purchase of land for a recreation and sports complex, there has been some misconception and misunderstanding about the purpose of the complex and the funds that will be used to buy the land and build the facility.
I would like to explain this in more detail and hopefully answer some of your questions and/or concerns.
A City of Clinton recreational facility has been on the city’s radar for almost 15 years, and during those 15 years, citizens and leaders alike have often asked the question, “When will it happen?”
The process doesn’t happen overnight; however, in 2007, City Council made the first step toward making this a reality by passing an ordinance to implement a Hospitality Tax (H-Tax) that would be collected and used for recreational purposes for the City of Clinton. Hospitality taxes are placed on restaurants in our city on all “to-go” orders. The state statutes and city ordinances govern how these funds must be spent, and they specify they cannot be spent to supplement utilities, buy police or fire vehicles, and other similar expenditures. The taxes collected are maintained in an entirely separate fund and are earmarked only for recreation and tourism.
During my interview process for City Manager, Mayor and Council informed me of the H-Tax and how it had been building for years and at this point, we had accumulated enough funds to get started on this facility. One of the major tasks they wanted in a new City Manager was to make the dream of a city recreational complex a reality.
Guess what? We have made a major step to make this happen by purchasing land and developing a conceptual plan with the money that has been collected specifically for recreation purposes.
The conceptual drawing presented when council voted to purchase the land is just that – a concept of how the facility could look – and it is not set in stone. In fact, an overall master plan will need to be developed that will include everything you want the facility to include, which is: a multi-use facility to accommodate not only ball games, but playgrounds, a walking track, pavilions for birthday parties or family reunions, and even an amphitheater to host cultural events. The vision of the facility is to provide a beautiful outdoor space that offers something for everyone to enjoy no matter your stage of life or physical abilities. It might be the facility will be developed in phases but we have to start.
The headline in the local paper alluded that I violated the city’s purchasing policy by using an engineering firm out of my home state of Kentucky; however, our city purchasing policy and state law provide that professional services “shall be exempted from the bid process.” MSE is a company out of my home state of Kentucky which I solicited to help develop a conceptual plan. I have worked with the owner for over 20 years; I know his work, his work ethic, his professional capabilities, and I know his pricing for this project will be fair. I want to provide the best value for the H-Tax dollars that have been collected for this project.
It is the goal of council and city administration to build a first-class facility for all citizens and visitors to use and enjoy. We are excited about the opportunities and possibilities this facility will afford our citizens and visitors alike. The city hopes to host an open forum sometime in January, wherein we will have a presentation, answer questions and allow input from the citizens about the recreation complex.
As aforementioned, funds are available in our H-Tax funds to purchase the land and begin design and construction. The city begins fiscal year budget planning in January of each year for the next budget year, and during those budget talks we will begin discussing and planning the maintenance and operations portion of the facility. During this time, city staff will also plan on budgeting to continue to improve our infrastructure, which includes utilities and roads. Funding for these improvements will need to come from additional sources as laws will not allow us to use H-Tax funds for these projects.
In the meantime, if you have more concerns or questions I would love to meet with you and discuss them. Call or email me to set up a meeting – I’d love to discuss your questions and/or concerns with you.
As this complex and other projects within the City’s pipeline keep progressing, please keep up with new and changing information which will be posted real time on our website at www.cityofclintonsc.com.
Bill Ed Cannon, City Manager
City of Clinton