Johnston leaders say they focused on fairness when deciding how to divvy up nearly $405,000 for recreation projects across the county.
Most of the 19 groups that sought money from the county’s open-space fund got less than they wanted, but all got something. On average, County Commissioners awarded a little more than half of what groups requested.
For instance, commissioners gave $6,500 to the Town of Kenly, which asked for $17,337 to upgrade batting cages at the town’s recreation complex on College Avenue. Tim Narron, the town’s parks and recreation director, said Kenly is satisfied with the funding it received.
“We understood that we had to share,” Narron said. “We shot for the moon. You can’t blame anybody for that.”
At their meeting on Tuesday, County Commissioners were unanimous in how they decided to disburse the available dollars. Money in the open-space fund comes from residential developers who choose to pay a $400-per-lot fee instead of setting aside open space in their subdivisions.
Before accepting applications last month, commissioners set the amount of money available to communities based on how much developers in the county’s high school districts paid in open-space fees. For instance, more developers paid the open-space fee in the West Johnston High School district than in the Princeton High district, so more money was available to groups in western Johnston County.
About $20,000 was available to groups in the North Johnston High School district, where applications from the towns of Kenly, Micro and Pine Level nearly doubled that amount. Commissioners gave each town $6,500. Commissioners also split money evenly among multiple groups applying for funds in the Clayton, Smithfield-Selma and South Johnston high school districts.
“There were so many different levels of requests,” said County Manager Rick Hester. “We tried to squeeze it as fair as we could.”
But Dene Castleberry, president of the Archer Lodge Community Center, said the board could have been more equitable in his area.
Of the more than $90,000 available in the Corinth Holders High School district, commissioners gave $31,500 each to Corinth Community Recreation and the Town of Clayton. The board split the other one-third of the money between the Town of Archer Lodge and the community center, or $15,750 each.
Castleberry said he didn’t think Clayton should have received one-third of the money because the Town of Clayton collects its own open-space fee. Clayton, which also received $6,000 in the Clayton High School district, plans to use the Corinth Holders money to help purchase new park land on Covered Bridge Road.
“I don’t blame (the Town of Clayton) for applying, but why would you give them a full (one-third) of the funds?” Castleberry asked.
The Archer Lodge Community Center, which applied for more than $95,000, planned to use the money to raze existing basketball and tennis courts to make room for more soccer fields. The Town of Archer Lodge applied for money to build a basketball court to replace the one at the community center.
“Our needs are really immediate, because we want to re-do the fields and put new grass on them,” Castleberry said.
The $405,000 that commissioners awarded to the various groups comes from a total of nearly $705,000 in the open-space fund.
Commissioners set aside about $353,000 in the fund for countywide projects. The board awarded $14,200 from that pool of money to Johnston Community College for a ropes course at Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center, Hester said.
The Greater Cleveland Athletic Association was the only group that applied for a portion of the $254,700 earmarked for the Cleveland High School district. Commissioners awarded the GCAA $76,000, or $58,000 less than the group applied for. That’s OK with GCAA treasurer Brad Faulkner, who said the group will use the money to fix a parking lot and light poles at its athletic complex on Cleveland Road.
“It’s tough being a small organization and keeping everything up and running the way it needs to be,” Faulkner said. “When this opportunity presented itself, it was a huge blessing to have access to this money. We wouldn’t be able to do these project on our own without years and years of fundraising.”