On Daufuskie Island, old agreement puts park plans in way of county funding

achristnovich@islandpacket.comFebruary 22, 2012 

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If its planners don't submit an outline for a new 3-acre park on Daufuskie Island before March 8, Beaufort County will risk losing access to grants from the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

The county bought a small parcel on the island -- no bigger than a baseball field -- for $25,000 in 1991. Four years later, the S.C. PRT reimbursed the county for the land, according to a memo from PRT grants coordinator Alesha Cushman. In exchange, the county was supposed to provide recreation opportunities on the land.

But the county hasn't made good on its end of the deal.

Cushman said the department discovered the 17-year-old agreement after a person she would not identify requested information about the land. County administrator Gary Kubic received a memo at the beginning of February stating PRT grants won't be provided if plans for the park don't meet a minimum requirement for "recreational opportunity."

"We will present a plan that will satisfy the minimum requirement," Kubic said, but could not give an exact date. "I told the planning group to create some kind of pavilion with some grills and make it available to residents who might want to use it for a family reunion, festival or art exhibit."

A team has been assembled to come up with a plan, but no cost estimate has been given yet, Kubic said.

County chief financial officer David Starkey says the amount in PRT grants the county receives varies each year. The amount of money on the line if Beaufort County were no longer allowed to apply for PRT grants isn't known.

The county received $61,557 from the agency last year and $15,789 in 2010, according to annual county reports. Starkey said the grants usually pay to repave tennis courts, build playgrounds or complete other parks and recreational service projects.

The land off Frances Jones Boulevard is beside one of the island's three trash-collection sites. Residents currently dump trash into four industrial-sized bins, and the county hauls it off the island, Daufuskie Council Chairman Aaron Crosby said. There are plans to replace the bins with a convenience center but the project has stalled because the owner of nearby property is suing the county. The owner, who lives in Virginia, claims the county did not conduct community impact studies or follow the proper planning procedures.

Kubic said the county is paying interest on a $400,000 loan while it waits for a decision on the pending litigation from the state Supreme Court.

PRT spokesman Marion Edmonds said if the county isn't allowed to apply for grants, municipalities within the county would remain eligible for funding.

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