August 1, 2018 11:14:10 AM
The split between the county's board of supervisors - more specifically board president Harry Sanders -- and the city of Columbus has been compared to a divorce, a messy one at that.
And, as is common in messy divorces, the nastiness persists.
In some divorces, the parties are content to go their separate ways. They agree to sit down and divide the joint property, arrange for child support and resolve any other issues that might prevent each from getting on with the rest of their lives. That's the adult approach.
But this is not that sort of divorce.
In this situation, one spouse has attached terms arbitrarily, after the fact and without any documentation that imposes restrictions on the division of property.
During Monday's board of supervisors meeting, the board told Joe Dillon, the city's public information officer, that the city would not be receiving the annual sum of $200,000 it had agreed to provide the city for its parks this year because the money was to be provided only as a reimbursement for a capital improvements project.
This is why you should always hire an attorney when you're getting a divorce, folks.
Imagine if your spouse agreed, as part of a divorce settlement, that you would keep the house. It's added to the divorce degree and signed by both you and your spouse.
Then, a few months after the divorce is settled, the spouse says, "You get the house, but you can't have any visitors or house guests or indoor pets. If you do have people over and get a cat, I'm taking the house back."
Anybody OK with that arrangement?
Essentially, that's what's happening here. First, there is nothing in the resolution (you can think of it as a divorce decree) that stipulates that the $200,000 provided for the city be used for "capital improvements" let alone any language that the money is a "reimbursement."
What the resolution unanimously approved by the supervisors did state is that the county would provide funds for three years, beginning in 2018, to "assist municipalities within Lowndes County in providing and maintaining Parks and Recreation programs."
The $200,000 figure for the city wasn't pulled out of thin air. That's important.
When the city and county agreed to the terms of the CLRA split, the $200,000 represented the amount of taxes city residents paid for parks/recreation. That's reasonable, right? If the city is going to run an independent parks department, the taxes city residents pay for parks should go to the city.
The idea at the county is "giving" the city these funds is a mis-characterization. It's not the county's money in the first place. Those tax dollars should be used for the purposes they are intended and, quite frankly, how the city chooses to use those funds in its parks department is not the county's business. Sanders has long been critical of the city's leadership. At best, he believes the city to be incompetent. At worst, crooked. His efforts to control how the city spends the $200,000 "settlement" is an effort to hold the city accountable.
We're all for accountability, of course. But it's important to know to whom the city is accountable and to whom it is not.
That accountability is due the citizens of Columbus. It is not due Sanders or the board of supervisors.
If the city of Columbus wants to paint the house purple and adopt a pot-bellied big, it might not be the best choice, but it is the city's choice to make.