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Scoreboard generates public commentary

Posted: August 3, 2017 4:47 p.m.
Updated: August 4, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Six people signed up to speak during public forum during Tuesday night’s Kershaw County Board of School Trustees meeting to talk about the Kershaw County School District’s (KCSD) decision to forward approximately $90,000 to Camden High School (CHS) to purchase and install a scoreboard at Zemp Stadium.

Of those six, two spoke out against the decision; the remaining four thanked the district for the investment.

The two people who expressed their displeasure were Vic Dabney and Jim Steele.

Dabney started by reminding trustees that both they and Kershaw County Council have been claiming “times are tough” financially, something he said led to increased taxes.

“When we were doing the referendum, we were going to address critical needs; that’s what the money was going to be used for: critical needs … not anything frivolous,” Dabney said, referring to what he called the “jumbotron.”

When news of the new scoreboard began circulating recently, the district made it clear that funds from a referendum-approved penny sales tax were not used to purchase the scoreboard. The referendum was written so that the funds could only be used for specific school construction and renovation projects and safety-related upgrades at the district’s three high school stadiums.

Dabney said that after he saw the scoreboard, he started asking questions. He claimed his research showed a scoreboard could have come as cheaply as $9,000-$15,000, instead of the $90,000 the district lent to CHS to purchase the board ($74,000) and install it ($16,000). CHS will have to pay the money back to the district within eight years.

Thursday, KCSD Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson confirmed that the money given to CHS came from the district’s cash on hand.

Dabney also disputed the idea the new board would pay for itself through advertising. He compared that claim to one used by the city of Camden concerning the Ross Beard gun collection at the Camden Archives and Museum. Dabney claimed the average number of visitors to see the gun collection is 42 per month during the three and a half years since its purchase. He said even if each of those people spent $100 in Camden, it would take 466 years to pay it back.

According to information provided by the archives on Thursday, for the month of July alone, 532 people visited the museum, including 336 who signed a guest book indicating where they lived. Of those, 121 were from out of state and another two from Spain. Of the 213 from South Carolina, 77 were from Camden, six each from Cassatt and Elgin, 11 from Lugoff and one from Westville. The remaining visitors were all from other counties.

Dabney also went on to claim that “some of the oldest businesses” in Kershaw County told him there was “no way they’re going to waste their money” on scoreboard advertising. He ended his comments by asking how the scoreboard was purchased without going through a bid process or public hearings as a “high dollar item.”

Thursday, Wilson said that purchases made through a district’s loan to a school that will be paid back from that school’s student activities funds -- which can include advertising -- are excluded from the district’s procurement code. He said the district, essentially, adopted the state’s procurement code.

Steele spoke briefly, focusing on what he felt was a need for the district to better communicate with the public.

“Citizens in the county are upset about this because they feel like they haven’t gotten the straight story about how it all happened,” Steele said. “We wonder, what is the straight story? Just a few days ago, I had a member of this board tell me to my face that they were against the scoreboard, but felt like they had to vote for it because they knew it was going to pass. Well, how many other people on the board felt the same way?”

Steele said another rumor going around is that the scoreboard would not be able to be used by the first game because a fiber optic cable would not be found to connect to the control board.

“So, there’s a lot of misinformation and a lot of rumors and stuff going around, and someone on this board needs to get out and tell the public … about what’s really going on, so we can put all this to rest,” he said.

The four people who spoke in favor of the scoreboard’s purchase and installation were Scott Jordan, former school board chair Mara Jones, new CHS Head Football Coach and Student Activities Director Brian Rimpf and Bryce McCoy.

Jordan, who called Dabney one of his “heroes,” said there is “nothing crazy” about the scoreboard being purchased for Zemp Stadium.

“It’s kind of the sign of the times. I guarantee you, there’s all kinds of stuff out there,” he said, referring to the types and prices of scoreboards. “These men, the coaches and principal, they did their research. They can’t just go out and cut a check. These guys have proven themselves over the years … their prudence and ability to make good decisions.”

Jordan reminded the board that he was upset in 2014 about the possibility of having Zemp Stadium replaced.

“Couple of years later, fast forward, we have another referendum, hotly contested … with money in it to fix Zemp Stadium. Voters, what’d they do? They got it. It’s the votes. That tells you, the community is behind Camden High School athletics. So, a message board? A ‘jumbotron’? This is just their time,” Jordan said, referring to the school’s current crop of athletes. “It’s not our time.”

Jordan also said the business people he spoke to will be “freaking out” to get on the board.

“Every Friday night, they’re going to be up there so, $2,000, $3,000 a week, whatever, that’s minutiae. It will be paid for without a problem. It might take nine months, it might take 10 months. The tradition of this community -- you think they’re going to leave a debt like that out there? Never happen,” he said.

Jones, who served on the board for 12 years, including several as chair, framed her comments in the context of how “equity doesn’t mean equal.” She mentioned how, during her tenure, the board worked hard to be equitable and fair across the county as far as classrooms, from North Central, through the Camden area and on to the West Wateree area. While North Central High School may not need three foreign language classes, Jones said, Lugoff-Elgin might, due to its enrollment figures.

“I use that to tell you that I support the decision you all made, because I was appreciative when a loan was made, numerous times, to Lugoff-Elgin band to purchase buses,” Jones said. “A ‘jumbotron’ -- if that’s what Camden desires to have and they can repay it -- that is not a problem. Lugoff-Elgin isn’t being slighted.”

Jones also decried the artificial divide at the Wateree River, despite it being based on “history and heritage.” She said she has not raised her son to dislike Camden even though they live in Lugoff and said her son doesn’t understand why there is a rivalry.

“If Lugoff-Elgin would care for a ‘jumbotron,’ I’m sure this board would make the same loan to them…. I don’t see this as a slight on Lugoff or North Central,” Jones said. “What I’d like to see moving forward … I feel strongly this can either create a divide among our communities, or we can be supportive of Camden. I love when I see great things happen in Camden because it’s Kershaw County that gets the accolades for it. We’ve got to get on board and be supportive of all three schools, and not see it as a slight of one school over the other.”

Rimpf, reading from a prepared statement, said one of the factors in making his decision to become CHS’s new head football coach and student activities director was passion.

“The community you serve has to have passion; that passion is being displayed by the participation of our community here tonight,” Rimpf said.

He said football practice started four days earlier and that, at this time of year, he is around the players six days a week.

“When we took our team, the Bulldogs, to Zemp Stadium to show them our new scoreboard, they were giddy -- you could certainly qualify the impact it had on them. Our coaches and staff got to see what wasn’t on the news or in the newspapers or on social media -- the reaction of those big, tough, strong, teenage boys was priceless,” Rimpf said. They were excited; they still are excited. Knowing their faces will be 14 feet tall will do that to be a big, tough, strong teenage boy.”

Rimpf also told a story about his wife serving artichokes with dinner one night recently -- something he had negative feelings about.

“‘Oh, great, I’m going to have somehow shove that down,’ because leaving food on my plate shows ultimate disrespect for my wife and that’s never happened before,” he said. “When she brought out the finished product, I was shocked. It actually looked good … I thought to myself, ‘This may not be so bad,’ and it wasn’t. In fact, it was one of the best things I’ve eaten…. Before I knew it, I had eaten my whole plate and was stealing hers and the kids’ to eat more. It was artichokes -- I didn’t know what it was going to look like when it was finished, I didn’t know what it was going to taste like. All I knew is that before I got to see the end result, I didn’t think I liked artichokes.

“Some people thought about the scoreboard the same way I thought about artichokes. But they hadn’t seen the final product; they hadn’t seen the reaction on the student athletes’ faces. They haven’t seen the impact, but I invite them all down with us on Friday nights in the fall.”

Rimpf noted that the first chance to see the scoreboard in action will be Aug. 11 for the 42nd annual Shrine Club Football Jamboree.

McCoy, who identified himself as a former athlete and the son of a current Bulldog football player, thanked the district for its investment in the children and the community.

“A scoreboard keeps the score, but with the video and all that, it adds a whole other dimension,” he said, adding that there is no other event in Kershaw County with as much diversity and pride as Bulldog football games.

McCoy said he returned to Camden after living in Florida and recently asked his son if he enjoyed playing for the Bulldogs now.

“You want your child to enjoy something not because you enjoyed it, but because they enjoy it. He said, ‘Dad, I do. I could not see myself playing anywhere else but Camden.’ He said the passion and love that this town for the football program is unique,” McCoy said.

He said the scoreboard is an example of investing in the next generation and that his son and fellow players see that and know the community cares about them.

“One day, my desire is for my son to pass (this passion) on to his son, and his son will say, ‘Man, I’d like to raise my children in Camden.’ We’re passing the baton from one generation to the other, and is that baton one that’s better, exciting and enthusiastic so people will desire to come here and love this community? And football is piece of that,” McCoy said. “Yes, you can crunch the numbers, you can do all that, but you can’t put a price on pride, you can’t put a price on loyalty, you can’t put a price on how this community will grow because people are coming back here.”

McCoy said if the scoreboard increases that pride and enthusiasm, then “it’s a well-deserved investment” in the community.

Crews installed the new scoreboard on Monday.

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