September 4, 2014 10:58:51 AM
The Sim Scott Park community center is getting some new exercise equipment and one Columbus councilman is claiming the funding for the upgrades is going to the wrong part of the city.
"It is a sad day....once again the people of ward 4 get the shaft," Ward 4 councilman Marty Turner wrote on his Facebook page earlier this week.
Turner's beef stems from the fact that the upgrades for the community center, which sits in Ward 5, are being paid for by the sale of the I.C. Cousins Center, which sits in Ward 4.
Columbus councilmen sold the I.C. Cousins Center to a local pastor for $20,500 in March 2013. The transaction was contingent upon the funds being used for a program at Sim Scott Park, according to Roger Short, the director of the Columbus Lowndes Recreation Authority. On Tuesday, the CLRA board voted to release the funds.
That doesn't sit well with Turner.
On his Facebook post, which the councilman wrote Tuesday, Turner pointed the finger at Ward 5 councilman Kabir Karriem and Lowndes County Supervisor Leroy Brooks, who represents a portion of the county that includes both Ward 4 and 5.
"Leroy Brooks and Kabir Karriem just took the money from the sell of the ic cousin to be used in ward 5," he continued on his Facebook post. "With no regard of the needs of the neighborhood or people where the money originated....sad but true.... but war continue."
The councilman has supporters. One commentor wrote on Turner's Facebook page: "Keep doing your thing. We need more people like you in the office."
The Dispatch contacted Turner about his concerns Wednesday. He said he feels like the Hunt High School gymnasium in his ward could use the equipment -- three treadmills and three exercise bikes -- going to the Sim Scott Park community center.
"(Sim Scott has) got a walking track," the councilman said. "If you've got a treadmill you're walking in place and it can only serve three people. That's not the best utilization for the money."
Turner said he has researched similar property sales the city has undertaken in the past. He said that research indicates the city typically uses money earned from a sale in the ward where it originated.
"That's part of the neglect that I feel like is happening in Ward 4," he said. "If Ward 4 cannot get some things the citizens want done over here, it should be distributed to everybody so we can get some of it."
Karriem, when reached Wednesday, said the agreement regarding the use of the money was not about using funds from another ward in his own. Rather, he said, it was about doing something in the best interest of the whole city.
"It's unfortunate that Mr. Turner feels that way about territory," Karriem said. "(Prior councilmen from Wards 4 and 5) have always had a good working relationship up until now. I don't know where the problem is coming from, but it shows a lack of maturity on the part of the councilman to even bring up an issue like that."
Karriem added that he feels like a person in a leadership role should work to instill programs that uplift an entire community, regardless of ward boundaries.
"It's not about Ward 5 or Ward 4," he said. "I don't want people to get it twisted like that...to have an obstructionist being a fellow councilman that is holding up progress for an entire community is uncivilized."
Turner also posted on his Facebook page, which is public: "When is the last time you seen Leroy Brooks..."
Shortly thereafter, he posted: "That's what I thought..."
Brooks said Wednesday that he and Karriem both reached out to Turner to work with him. Brooks said Turner was not interested.
"He is so elementary and such an adolescent that I'm not going to dignify it because I'm too busy trying to be proactive and take care of things in the community," Brooks said. "It's a tragedy that Marty as an elected official chooses to be an adolescent, but that's one of the great things about democracy. He's got his right to speak out. He's just on this one-man tear, and I don't plan to dignify his foolishness."
Short noted that the new equipment at Sim Scott Park on 20th Street North will be open to the general public.
"Historically, the Sim Scott Park has been the central park for both of those wards," Short added.
I.C. Cousins and Sim Scott Park are approximately one-half mile apart, according to Google Maps. The former Hunt High School is directly across the street from Sim Scott Park.
The city is holding a public hearing today at 5 p.m. on the upcoming fiscal year budget, but the council is also scheduled to discuss the sale of the I.C. Cousins building, according to an agenda released this morning.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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