Summerville Town Councilmen Russ Touchberry and Terry Jenkins have co-written an editorial on the proposal for a community recreational facility.

We want to thank everyone for the thoughtful input and feedback as elected local government leadership in Dorchester County and the Town of Summerville evaluates an idea of a community recreational facility focused on increasing opportunities for the residents of both the town and the county.  This idea has generated overwhelming support for the concept and getting this accomplished, but it was communicated poorly and, unfortunately, misunderstood.

The idea of a community recreational facility was first broached in a joint workshop between the elected leadership of Dorchester County and the Town of Summerville in March. The workshop’s purpose was to bring ideas of mutual interest forward so that we could work together to make them a reality. As good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars, we realize we have limited financial resources, so we strive to work together to solve gaps in services by developing multiple uses within the projects and sourcing the appropriate funds that we do have available to meet our citizen’s needs.

One way we have worked together is through the Tax Increment Financing Districts (TIF districts) that the town, county, and Dorchester School District 2 worked on in both Oakbrook and the Highway 78 corridor. These types of districts achieve the long battle cry from taxpayers for “growth to pay for itself.”  These TIFs have been a proven financing vehicle in other towns such as Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Cayce, and others to pay for facilities such as the one being proposed to improve the quality of life of our residents.

To do a project like a community recreational facility, identifying land that is accessible is an obvious barrier.  A site close to Woodlands was mentioned as a place where the Town already owns the land.  While it made sense on a map for the site to be there, it may not be the best location for various reasons.  At a public meeting at the Woodlands, it was made clear there is overwhelming support for more recreation for our residents – just not at that site.  We were already urging consideration of alternative sites through cooperation and outreach with Dorchester School District 2 and local developers.  This effort should create much energy into the project in hopes it could meet the needs of everyone in both the county and the town.

However, the town will still need to create a long-term strategy on what can be done on that critical piece of land at the Woodlands.  At the next Town Council meeting, we will propose a citizen’s advisory task force to develop a recommendation for the best use of the Woodlands property moving forward. This will need to include feedback from the residents in the immediate area, and others, to assist Council in developing a plan for this property.  We take historic preservation seriously, and adequately planning for this town-owned parcel will further enhance the Town and our commitment to preserving our past while looking to the future.

Determining the size, scope, and location of a community recreational facility proposal will require collaboration on the potential needs of the county, the town, Dorchester School District 2, and non-profit recreational partners to deliver what is best for our community.  We all have different needs, and working together can determine the best outcome for all our citizens.  We plan to ask the county, the town, and the school district to create a joint task force to evaluate the community’s scope and needs for this recreational facility and create a funding plan to complete the project.  This will be a transparent and inclusive process.

Elected leadership is about knowing what your community wants through listening, being active, and creating the vision, ideas, and collaboration to carry out the community’s needs.  We all love Summerville and Dorchester County and believe we can unite behind our love of it to continue to make our community special and a place we love to call home.

Russ Touchberry and Terry Jenkins are members of Summerville Town Council.