For next budget, Stanly County will not fund parks, recreation grants

Published 11:47 am Thursday, February 24, 2022

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One program Stanly commissioners approved for this fiscal year will not be moving forward next year.

At the recent retreat conducted by county staff, the Stanly County Board of Commissioners agreed by consensus, with one opposed, to not continue the parks and recreation matching grant.

Commissioner Peter Asciutto, who proposed the program for the current year, said $74,500 was approved by commissioners, which will lead to more than $200,000 in projects. The county grant matched municipalities’ plans up to $10,000 for certain types of improvements. Many were for projects such as resurfacing courts, new shelters and similar items.

Ascuitto said the program was part of the county’s mission statement, adding it was “part of our brand and building a healthy lifestyle.”

Vice Chairman Zack Almond said he would agree to do it if the county had fund money, adding “it seems like we’re kind of bare bones doing other stuff,” referring to information previously given by Sheriff Jeff Crisco and County Manager Andy Lucas about jail overcrowding.

Chairman Tommy Jordan said the county has “so much capital expenditure coming up,” adding he would rather spend $100,000 on something more like a new car for the Sheriff’s Office.

Commissioner Scott Efird said he was for the project, but it might be better to do it every other year, allowing towns “the opportunity to budget for bigger projects.”

Commissioner Bill Lawhon agreed with Efird about not doing it every year, adding the county has “tons of capital projects” coming up.

Commissioner Mike Barbee, who voted against the grant early on and expressed his opposition to it in previous meetings, said he felt “50 percent of the population in this county won’t even use” the parks. He said the county is glad to help, but municipalities should come to the county who would choose on a “case by case basis.”

Commissioner Lane Furr suggested if the county does the grant in the future to cut the program down to a maximum of $5,000 per municipality.

Asciutto said “if we can’t spend $75,000 on this, we’re in trouble fiscally in this county.”

“There’s a lot of people out here who need water, too,” Barbee replied. “Do you want to play pickleball or do you want good, safe drinking water?”

When Ascuitto asked Lucas about his opinion and said he knew the county manager was against the program, Lucas called it “an unfair characterization.”

“I have a big picture of the budget and all the demands coming into the budget. It’s what’s mandated and what is discretionary. Obviously, parks and rec are discretionary,” Lucas said.

Lucas said Stanly is not in the “parks and rec business,” nor is there a mandate for the county to be in parks and rec. He also said among the departments the county has to fund are things such as jails, emergency management services, the Department of Social Services and the health department.

“I’ve got all these requests coming in, and I have this limiting factor of this much money I can spend because the tax rate has to be 61 cents,” Lucas said. “I don’t feel like I can put $100,000 in the budget (for parks and recreation) and make it work.”

Lucas also mentioned requests from Stanly County Schools for more funding.

“We haven’t given them anywhere near what they’ve asked for,” Lucas said.

When Asciutto said he would take the news to municipalities that the board was not doing the program, Lawhon said, “We didn’t say we’re not interested in doing it again. We’re just not interested in doing it this year.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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