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Why a Y now?

Posted: September 29, 2011 3:13 p.m.
Updated: September 30, 2011 5:00 a.m.

I, like many others, have listened, watched and read about this YMCA/sports complex. It all started with a real estate listing on 1/7/2011, a contract on 2/7/2011 and a closing date later in March. Wow! That was a fast real estate transaction. Discontent and suspicions started then and have continued. Shortly after the closing, there was talk of a possible YMCA partnering with Columbia. Now I am not here to oppose a Y. My children learned to swim at the Y, my husband was president of the board and was even instrumental in obtaining the land for the new Y pool, which is now the Kershaw County Recreation Department pool.

What I do object to is the process that this council has taken and the economic timing and the potential damage to the rec department and other sports complexes in the area. Is council aware that the rec department served over 4,000 youth among all the sports? That the largest gym serves 375 families and the gymnastics center serves 300 youth? What are we lacking? Is council aware that the Sumter Y has canceled some classes for lack of participation? The Columbia YMCA CEO stated, “The Camden area could supply 893 member families during the first year.” Is that feasible? Have any of the council members researched any stats? These are basic questions.

Margaret Pope has stated that because of a law change last year, hospitality taxes can be used to fund the proposed complex. Perhaps it is just within the letter of the law … but is it the best use for tourism dollars? I believe her statement was because residents outside city limits can be counted as tourists. So now I speak as a tourist to Camden. As a tourist, I proclaim taxation without representation. I have contributed significantly to the hospitality tax, but I have no voice in where my dollars go? Do the five members of council think they should have made that decision? Furthermore, when they handpicked their advisory committee, no tourists were included. Why don’t they listen? Can’t they hear what they are saying? They were not elected because they know what is best for the city.

A councilman has stated that Camden has “moved backwards during the last 50 years.” I beg to differ. When DuPont arrived in Camden, it was the largest boom this town has ever had and continues today with 2,400 retirees and their families who chose to remain in this area.

Yes, there was a Y here and, yes, there was a teen canteen. The Y did not have the membership to remain viable. The teen canteen ceased to exist because parents no longer volunteered to chaperone and fights were becoming more common. Does council seriously think that either of these situations would be different now? Council asks, “What has changed since 2007?” Hello! We are in the deepest recessions since the Depression. Unemployment is at an all-time high and there are no signs of improvement on the horizon. Is this the right time? Is this the proper procedure? Is this what the majority of the citizens want?

Has council considered that they are obligating our hospitality taxes for the next five, 10, perhaps 15 years to go toward this facility? A facility that was far from the top of the list on the 10-year plan. In fact, from the list in the paper, to upgrade or replace the City Arena was much higher. Why not renovate it? It brings in more tourists than the Town Green does. Look at the renovation to the old courthouse. In fact, renovate the rec department pool with a bubble top.

Speaking of tourists, does council really think a sports complex will bring the children back to Camden? I disagree. I think jobs, jobs, jobs are where the children will go unless they have a family connection with a job waiting here for them.

Does council remember that the original rec department office was in City Hall? It was the Camden Rec Department. The city contracted with the county in 1980 or so and it was the Camden/Kershaw County Rec Department. Then, in 1989, the city opted out of recreation and it became the Kershaw County Rec Department. Now the city is chomping at the bit to jump in over its head for recreation. Now I ask – what has changed? Council members should remember that the voters elected them to these positions and they will be voting again.


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