By Erin Smith
The Bladen County Board of Commissioners got their first look at a proposed Bladen County Parks and Recreation Incentive Grant on Monday night.
Bladen County Parks and Recreation Director Grant Pait presented the proposed incentive grant to the board. Pait told the board this is a proposed matching incentive grant that the board asked about a few years ago.
Commissioner Michael Cogdell asked, “I know we had some money allocated for this. Does this have a cap on it?”
Bladen County Manager Greg Martin told the board that a specific amount or cap has not been determined as of yet. He stated that any cap would need to be determined by the board.
“If you want us to go back and look at the program, we can,” said Martin.
Cogdell stated that his concern is being certain that if there is a cap placed on the amount funds that can be received, applicants need to be made aware of that when seeking a match. Pait stated that currently there is no cap to which Cogdell pointed out that could lead to there not being enough funds to operate the program.
“I don’t know if the policy has even been adopted yet,” said Chairman Charles Ray Peterson.
“No sir,” replied Pait.
“So, you don’t have anything to go by because we haven’t adopted a policy. But, my concern is, with all of the needs in Bladen County, and, as tight as the budget is going to be, I don’t know how we can take money and subsidize towns to do recreation,” said Chairman Peterson.
He continued, “I think, I personally, would love to see the recreation department grow in these communities versus we’re giving them tax dollars in the form of grant money to towns to do recreation.”
Chairman Peterson also stated the Bladen County Health Department has personnel who will help communities to develop walking trails and there are other resources out there the County can reach out and assist the towns with recreation without it costing county funds.
Commissioner Dr. Ophelia Munn-Goins, “My only concern is that those same tax dollars came from those citizens of those towns. So we are not giving them anything.”
She emphasized that many of those residents have paid their share of taxes over the years and have not received “anything.”
“Along with that,when you come to the board and ask us to look at the park on US 701, I would like to know how we are going to fund it, because we don’t have any dollars in the recreation plan,” said Commissioner Munn-Goins.
She requested Pait to present a plan for proposed funding, proposed improvements to the Bladen County Park located on US 701 South. Commissioner Munn-Goiins pointed out that just like the needed improvements at the Bladen County Park, the citizens in Bladen County’s towns need recreational facilities as well.
Commissioner Cogdell asked Pait to come back with a budget for the project.
Commissioner Ashley S. Trivette asked what type of tax base are the town’s working with and she also stated she would like to know where the towns are prioritizing recreation in their individual budgets.
Commissioner Munn-Goins stated the County paid several thousand dollars to East Carolina University for a Parks and Recreation Study and does not offer facilities to outlying areas for citizens to use.
Chairman Peterson, “I have no problem providing recreation in those communities. My problem is taking tax dollars and giving it to the town. I think the County Recreation Department needs to expand and do what we are asking, not give tax payers dollars to the town. I’m not against recreation any where in Bladen County. I think it should be County recreation if you’re going to use County dollars, not partnering with a town.”
He noted that it will not be one time funding but rather there will be maintenance costs involved once the facilities are in place.
Pait was requested to work on the incentive grant proposal and bring it back.