Rec board leaves aldermen meeting, won’t support tax increase

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 31, 2005

Recreation board members walked out of a Vidalia aldermen meeting Tuesday after saying they will not support any new tax for recreation &045; leaving those left to another lengthy discussion on the subject.

In the end, aldermen agreed to begin the process of hiring an outside consultant to study the town’s recreation needs.

Many of the people at the meeting were in agreement &045; they do not want new taxes, or at least not an increase as high as the 15 mills already proposed.

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But many residents also said they support the idea of new or renovated recreation facilities.

Last month, aldermen postponed a vote on the tax increase, which had been scheduled for Saturday, so that they could meet and try to come up with an agreement with the recreation board.

But the board members did not stay long at Tuesday’s meeting.

&uot;The recreation board would oppose any tax increase for recreation at this time,&uot; rec board chairman Don Joseph said.

Joseph suggested that if the city wants soccer fields &045; one of the aspects of the proposed new facilities &045; the rec board might maintain them if the city donated property on the riverfront or elsewhere in the community.

The aldermen and the rec board have been in talks for weeks to try to come to an agreement on recreation plans. An original agreement which Mayor Hyram Copeland said he and Joseph signed called for both boards to fund a consultant who would bring his recommendations before a public hearing.

But the recreation board later backed out of that agreement after they discovered another of the provisions &045; adding members to the rec board &045; was not allowed.

Copeland said he had hoped the recreation board would propose raising its millage by 4 to 6 mills &045; raising roughly the same amount of money that the 15-mill city tax would raise.

&uot;We asked them to work with us,&uot; he said. &uot;We thought (15 mills) was too much.&uot;

One mill in the recreation district would raise about $64,000; one mill in the city would raise about half that, Copeland said.

Grants could become available to the city to help pay for new facilities, but only if construction was already under way on the project, he said.

The packed house at Tuesday’s meeting had mixed opinions on the issue. Many applauded when Joseph said the rec board would not propose a tax increase, but others said they want to see new facilities.

And some said they don’t want a tax increase but were disappointed by the recreation board’s lack of cooperation.

Bill Murray, who tried to help Copeland negotiate with the rec board, said he has been against a tax increase but is disappointed by the recreation board’s refusal to cooperate.

&uot;I don’t want to pay more taxes, but I have a lot more faith in the city running recreation,&uot; he said. &uot;But I would like a lot more affordable plan.&uot;

Susan Hinson said she would like to see new members on the recreation board.

&uot;We need to have young people on the (rec) board who have a vested interest in the children,&uot; Susan Hinson said. &uot;I want this done without taxes.&uot;

But attorney Jack McLemore said any new project will cost some money.

&uot;One thing you have to understand about a project like this is that Vidalia has got to grow,&uot; city attorney Jack McLemore said. &uot;Every project we’ve done &045; they all cost money. We are so far behind in (recreation). This is something we need.&uot;