Search Results for: richland recreation

No new money for Richland County Recreation Commission


Just like Representative Finlay and I did by sustaining Veto 31 of an “Indoor Aquatic and Community Center” relating to Richland County and recreation, I am wanting to be sure no new funding is available or projects approved by the Recreation Commission until there is resolution from the ongoing local, state and federal investigations and lawsuits.

(Veto message)

Below is an email I sent our delegation today relating to the Park and Recreation Development Fund . The last thing that needs to happen is these tax dollars (your tax dollars) be spent without knowing more about what’s going on with the Commission.

(Email to Richland County Delegation)

2017 PARD

Related posts:

Richland County – sands through the hourglass

Delegation takes action with Recreation Commission

Meet your Richland County Recreation Commissioner

Meet Your Richland County Recreation Commissioner

I hate to follow up a post about Young Life with this type of post but folks, I’m for transparency and I wanted y’all to know what’s going on in government.

This time locally – with Richland County.

Many would never know that our community, once again, has NO representation on the Richland County Recreation Commission if I didn’t tell you. But I’m telling you and I’m telling you how it happened.

For years before I was elected, we had no representation but I was fortunate after y’all sent me here to work with the delegation (10 Democrats, 5 Republicans) and get an Irmo citizen elected a few years back. I thank my Richland House and Senate members for understanding our area had long been underepresented on the commission and they supported my nomination.

Unforunately, our commisioner’s stint was a short one as he was unceremoniously removed by the ranking Senator on our delegation because our commissioner supposedly “wasn’t voting correctly” (what I was told). You may recall (or may not) how this Recreation Commission is the pet-project for this ranking Senator and how that Senator is very much involved in what goes on.

My philosophy has been that we should empower the individuals we appoint instead of micro-managing them. If you’re SO interested in the day-to-day operations and votes, then you should run for the position yourself but don’t be a puppet-master. [Read more…]

$350,000 for Richland County parks goes to….

…City of Columbia, Parks and Rec Department
Colony/North Pointe Recreation Project Phase 1 – $88,914.74
Colony/North Pointe Recreation Project Phase 2 – $ 274,376.15

Yes, you read that correctly. Richland County money that our county parks could use for safety and other improvements went to the City of Columbia – for a new park. For perspective the City already has 60 city parks and green spaces; 600 acres of city-maintained park land; 55 tennis courts; 16 city pools, spray pads and ponds; and 9 city-maintained fountains.

I discovered this after I stopped in my State House Office the first day back from a family vacation. (Yes, I kept in touch while away, returning constituents calls, working with colleagues, making a request of our Speaker and calling in from Montana to Keven Cohen’s show when the bombshell of VC Summer news broke. More on that tomorrow.)

When reviewing the paperwork from the “FY 2017-2018 PARD (Parks and Recreation Development Fund) Recurring Funds Allocation booklet” that SC PRT mails to House/Senate at the end of July, I came across the lines items mentioned above “Columbia, City of Parks and Rec. Dept”. I’ve discussed PARD funds before on this website. Bottom line, PARD funds are allocated each year to COUNTY DELEGATIONS to be used for parks and recreation.

Much has been written about the mess with the Richland County Recreation Commission for many years on my website ) and I was pleased to see a group of my colleagues finally come together and support the push for much needed change at the Commission. In addition, I was pleased to see them agree for my push a new way for the delegation appointed members (the old way is what helped empower the former Director and led to the many problems that have been finally reported).

We have finally restored some confidence and trust in that department by replacing the former commissioners with individuals chosen from more than 60 applicants – all given a chance to speak before the delegation.

Earlier this summer, after the delegation secretary forwarded an email PARD request to the entire delegation for the Bookert Heights Community (which I shared with a colleague I would support), I replied to the entire delegation:

“How have we decided to handle PARD going forward? There is (sic) LOTS available to impact our communities and I want us to all be able to help our areas. I remember Chairman Neal had us “divide the money evenly”. Recently, it seems we have individual requests coming in. I’m supportive one way or another; but want to be sure the delegation is aware of the enormous amount available and that we work together for each other. Thoughts?”

Our delegation chairman responded: “We have usually wanted to make sure each member has an opportunity to make this important resource available to their constituents where appropriate. We have not done it always the same way. I will reach it (sic) to staff today and reply to the group with an update on the fund.”

There was no update until today when I opened the report. Worse, the update showed me that not only did the request everyone received not get approved, 2 OTHER requests were approved that the entire delegation DID NOT RECEIVE.

I called PRT and learned that 52% of the weighted average of the delegation had signed a letter of support. While a majority is required, what should be EXPECTED is that the delegation discuss these matters together – in meetings – not continue to have individual House members and Senators work to garner support from just enough colleagues to get 50.01% and not let the entire delegation know of their request.

That is what happened with these requests. Under secrecy, a money grab was made. As if that was not enough, the money – GIVEN TO COUNTY DELEGATIONS – was handed over to the City of Columbia.

Shouldn’t the City pay for their own parks?

Shouldn’t these delegation decisions involving hundreds of thousands of dollar be vetted in public at delegation meetings?

Out here in our area, the answer to both those questions is Yes. Where you live, I’m pretty sure that answer is Yes, too.

Maybe the approved project for the City is worthy and would have been supported anyway. Maybe. But our delegation cannot continue to spend money in this manner. YOUR MONEY. County tax dollars going to City project…and not even debated our discussed by the entire delegation.

I’ll continue my push to make these reforms to the way Richland County delegation operates. We need more meetings. We need more discussion. We do not need rogue officials supporting City projects with money that our county parks can use.

Richland County – sands through the hourglass


As I kid, I “grew up” watching Days of our Lives with my Mom.

This was back during the days of those rather large VHS recorders and my Mom would “set the timer” every day to record her show and watch after she had finished her day teaching at Greenville Tec (25+ years) and making dinner for our family. When I went off to college years later, I happened to catch an episode or two and it seemed the “characters were still the same”.

I share this because it seems like I’m watching the same thing here in Richland County. Again.

First the Election Fiasco and then the Recreation Mess.

While I’ve been one of the first elected officials to call for drastic measures in both instances , it takes awhile for resolution to occur. While the Elections Director was not fired – she was at least finally replaced. While the Recreation Director has not been fired – he has at least been relived of his duties – until further notice.

In both instances, it took time. More time than I – or you – believed necessary. But that’s politics and that’s what happens when you have a larger block of votes against you.

My constituents recall years ago when a Senator unceremoniously removed my appointment to the Recreation Commission. I knew then that some members of the Legislative Delegation were too much “involved” in the operations of the Commission. I was told our commissioner was removed because he “wasn’t voting correctly” (verbatim from the Senator).

I agree with an editorial I read today . Some of us have been asking questions; what have the others been doing? Helping or hindering?

Here’s a question I have for the legal minds out there: Can a commissioner be removed (like my appointment was years ago) simply by having enough votes to remove him/her? If so, then I will ask my colleagues to remove the current commissioners – much like we did the Elections Commission (except for one holdover).

If we don’t remove the Commissioners (along with the Director), it means this soap opera will continue just as Days of Our Lives has for years. Same characters and basically the same story line. One of these isn’t good for ratings; the other isn’t good for our employees, our children and our taxpayers.

Delegation takes action with Recreation Commission


From The State

COLUMBIA, SC – State lawmakers from Richland County called Tuesday for the suspension of the county Recreation Commission’s executive director until law enforcement investigations into his office are complete.

James Brown III would be suspended with pay if the Richland County Recreation Commission, which has authority to hire and fire its director, follows the legislators’ recommendation.

The Recreation Commission’s board is appointed by Richland legislators. However, the legislators’ recommendation is advisory only.

Legislators voted 9-5 to recommend Brown’s suspension against the backdrop of ongoing investigations into allegations of public corruption at the Recreation Commission, and civil lawsuits accusing Brown of sexual harassment and other improper behavior. Richland County Council also has frozen the majority of the Recreation Commission’s 2016-17 funding until an audit shows how the agency spends its money.

To read more, click here.

Other articles of interest

SLED is 3rd agency asked to investigate Recreation Commission (April 2016)

Meet Your Recreation Commissioner (October 2008)

Richland County: It’s happening…again

2016 GOP primary

Everyone makes mistakes. But it seems Richland County is getting “real good” at making “mistakes” lately: the county Penny Tax county Recreation …. county elections .

Thanks to my neighbor, who first brought this to my attention April 29th when he walked over and showed me the letter you see above, I learned 203 voters in our community received this letter…by mistake.

The letter begins:

“You requested an absentee ballot for the REPUBLICAN Primary on June 14th, 2016, but there will be no REPUBLICAN primary for any of the offices you are eligible to vote….Therefore, you will NOT be receiving a REPUBLICAN ballot for June 14, 2016.

Not sure how the county didn’t know there was a Republican race out here. It’s the only Republican race in the entire county so it should stand out. I would hope they wouldn’t “forget about us” about here – but looks like they did.

The State wrote about it this week and I’ve copied some of the article below.


More than 200 voters in Richland County mistakenly were told by the beleaguered county elections office that they could not vote absentee in the June Republican primary for state House District 71.

Thousands of voters across the county requested absentee ballots for the June 14 primary. Most of them correctly received letters from the Richland County Voter Registration and Elections office telling them there is no Republican primary for them to vote in, elections director Samuel Selph said.

But 203 voters in House District 71, who are eligible to vote in the county’s sole Republican primary, received those letters by mistake, Selph said.

“We were just trying to be proactive” by informing voters when there were no primaries in their districts, Selph said. “We made a mistake and sent it to some people in District 71, and we corrected that. … You don’t like for these things to happen, naturally.”

Read more here

The county has since mailed those 203 voters a corrected letter (see below) and it’s my hope that all voters will receive their absentee ballots and that come June 14th, every vote will count and the county will have the legal number of (working) machines at every precint.

2016 GOP correction

Another fantastic Community Cookout!

It’s been a privilege for more than a decade to bring our community together and give a everyone a chance to meet and speak with their elected officials in a casual setting – FREE right here in Chapin! From Governors, Lt. Governors, Treasurers and SC Senators and Representatives , to our officials in Congress – US Senators and Representatives, to Mayors and Town Council Memberss, Sheriffs, School Board, County Council Members, Coroners, and many, many more. Staying in touch helps us do better jobs for you!

Even with a forecast of showers, the weather held off and the crowd turned out. Like previous cookouts, this year was the first one for several in attendance. Many who just moved to the area or who had never been involved before. That’s what makes these events special.

One surprise was when Nan Barwick (90 years old in October) came up to me and asked “Do you remember knocking on my door 12 years ago?” Actually, I did; but I couldn’t remember her name. I replied “Yes, ma’am. Your dogs are Bertha and Putter!” She smiled and was surprised I remembered her dogs (they’ve crossed the rainbow bridge since). That was a special moment for me. Seeing her for the first time in a while and remembering the early days and those early supporters and memories who gave me a chance!

On top of getting to see many old friends and meet new ones, I was glad to see Governor McMaster present the Order of the Silver Crescent to former constituent Todd Latiff! Many might not be aware but because I was able to get Todd on the Richland Recreation Commission years ago, he was able to help bring about the changes that lead to a completely new board and helped us restore trust in that office. Todd was one who worked to help me clean up Columbia (well, Richland County in this instance).

Last Wednesday wouldn’t have been the success it was if not for our community taking time out of our busy schedules to come together. Also, thanks to the many sponsors, hosts and supporters for helping with the event and my re-election campaign.

As always, if I can ever be of service, please let me know ! I love speaking to your church groups, civic groups, and all the youth groups – Scouts, Backyard Bible Club, etc. Elected officials that stay in touch year round (not just at election time) are able to better serve our communities!


Be sure to pick up your weekly copy of The Irmo News to see weekly Legislative Updates, focused on activity inside the State House. Represenative Huggins and I rotate columns each week in order to keep you informed! As always, I try to write a community update each month here on Nathan’s News to also keep you informed what’s going on here in Irmo/Chapin/Ballentine/White Rock/Dutch Fork area.


With the House budget debate set to begin next Monday, March 14th, I want to focus this month on just that – the budget.

Much has been shared in the national news over the last few weeks about budget deficits in states across the country. Here in South Carolina, the direction from our voters is clear: Prioritize spending. Protect “core” government services. Reduce government inefficiencies.

A national poll taken last week echoes what you have been telling me since I was first elected. The USA Today/Gallup poll showed large majorities of Republican and Independent voters do not want tax hikes and support cuts to state government programs. I didn’t need a poll to tell me that, I hear it from you at constituent service nights, on my website, at the grocery store, on the ball fields and at church.

It appears we’ll be able to piece together a budget that would have been approximately $800 million short (if no changes from present levels of spending) by using targeted cuts, consolidations and prioritizing “core” functions. It should be noted that we will actually propose an increase in the base student cost – the amount per student that we give to local school districts – by 10.5 percent. A statement about one of the “core” functions of government: education.

Consolidations proposed thus far have been the Department of Corrections with the office of Probation, Pardons, and Parole; the Arts Commission and the State Museum with the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism; and Consumer Affairs moving under the Secretary of State.

The proposed budget cuts 4,696 state government jobs that are vacant or have not been filled within the past 12 months. This figure may alarm many; but also will be appreciated by many more who understand that thousands of private-sector jobs (including several of our neighbors, friends and families in our community) have been lost during these lean times. It should be noted also that those jobs “cut” are not men and women told they no longer have a job. Instead these are FTEs (full-time equivalents) that state departments and agencies have not yet filled – several being vacant for up to 12 months already.

Remember, in addition to the $5.1 billion in general funds we appropriate, we also authorize two other “buckets” of funding: $9.3 billion in Federal funds (93 percent of which goes directly to schools, colleges, or Medicaid) and $7.4 billion in “Other” funds (63 percent of which is paid by parents as tuition to state colleges or paid into health care). Combined, you can see the total budget for our state is approximately $21 billion.


Raising taxes to cover higher budget requests would be the easy way out. Cutting programs is not always popular. I know that.

My conservative philosophy dictates that government should live like a family – in lean times – you have to tighten your belts and spend less. That is not the philosophy shared by all of the members of the House – especially about 5 years ago when the general fund (now $5 billion) was in excess of $7 billion.

As a freshman legislator back then, I was unable to sway my colleagues to set more aside for a rainy day and not spend everything we had. In the past few years though, my ability to influence others (particularly to advance conservative, common-sense ideas) has grown, We are now seeing the fruits from that hard work that was then often overlooked by the established politicians. Fruits that will hopefully pay dividends in the future for our state. While these budget cuts will be painful in the short term, they will make South Carolina a better, more stable place to live and work in the long term.

As mentioned above, the budget is scheduled to be on the House floor for debate on Monday, March 14th and I hope you’ll contact me through this site to let me know your opinions before I cast critical votes that week.
[Read more…]

WANTED: Board of Voter Registration and Elections


From the Post and Courier

Gov. McMaster removes elections board in SC’s capital county that missed 1,040 votes
By Andy Shain

Ballentine said he is not surprised McMaster decided to fire all board members

“This all shows the importance of who we place on these boards and commissions,” Ballentine said. “We have not filled these posts with the most qualified people.”

Until a debacle involving the delegation-appointed county Recreation Commission in 2016, the legislative delegation voted on an entire slate of board nominees that came from a special application review committee and could not make changes, Ballentine said.

The 17-member delegation also met just once a year, unlike the Lexington County lawmakers who gather about six times a year, said Ballentine, whose district includes both counties.

“There is no oversight (in Richland),” he said. “We had no idea what these people were doing after they were appointed.”

PREVIOUSLY ON NATHAN’S NEWS: Election Mess , Recreation Mess

Struggling with the challenges of change

Les and Joan Tweed, long-time leaders of the Ballentine Civic Association, help guide the pace of development in the unincorporated area on the northeast corner of Lake Murray. Tim Dominick


Joe Cantwell calls Ballentine paradise even though roads increasingly are congested with newcomers drawn by the area’s resort lifestyle.

“It’s still a great place to live, still where I want to be, but it’s definitely more crowded,” said Cantwell, who has called the unincorporated community on the northeast corner of Lake Murray home for 32 years.

Ballentine, the self-proclaimed gateway to Lake Murray, is coping with growing pains and the threat of being swallowed partly by nearby Irmo.

Scattered enclaves on heavily forested land have given way to side-by-side neighborhoods as the population has more than doubled in 15 years. The homes have brought small stores and offices – and more cars to narrow roads. More cars than people, actually.

Still, the once-remote niche in northwest Richland County is becoming home to more people who share Cantwell’s sentiment that the 8-square-mile area offers the best of suburbia.

“It’s all worth it,” said Rob Strickland, who moved to the area three years ago.

In addition to lakeside living, major features attracting Strickland and others moving in are the area’s top-rated schools and its proximity to I-26 for work, shopping and recreation.

It’s home to 6,000 residents, compared to 2,800 in 2000, planners at the Central Midlands Council of Governments say. Another 1,000 newcomers are expected in the next five years, that analysis estimates.

And the area is expected to have 2,700 homes in five years compared to 2,300 today and 1,100 in 2000.

Dealing with a steady influx of homes and stores – mostly locally owned – is challenging for longtime residents.

“Roads are where you see the biggest change,” said Earl Long, who has lived in Ballentine since 1975. “If you think traffic is bad now, just wait.”

About 22,000 vehicles travel daily on Dutch Fork Road, Ballentine’s central thoroughfare, state transportation officials estimate. That’s an increase of 4,000 in the past decade, those counts say.

Strickland say there’s room for plenty more.

Others aren’t so sure.

Mixed success

With no town hall in charge, community leaders are trying to guide what comes. But there’s no guarantee their advice will be accepted.

Leaders of the Ballentine Civic Association work with local officials and builders in trying to shape the transition under way.

“We’ve been able to make sure if something comes in, it’s an appropriate fit,” said state Rep. Nathan Ballentine, a Republican who lives in the area named for his family.

There have been successes:

▪ State officials denied tax credits last year for a plan for 112 apartments for low-income seniors and tenants amid complaints the projects proposed were out of character for the area and too far from public transportation.

▪ Richland County backed off plans last year for a lakeside recreation facility on Bonuck Road after complaints the surrounding neighborhood would be disrupted by traffic, vandalism, noise and litter.

▪ More activities have been added and facilities improved at Ballentine Park in the past few years.

But the association’s one-time goal of keeping the area largely pastoral is fading.

“The concept of semi-rural living is going away,” said longtime association leader Les Tweed, who settled there 20 years ago. Now, “we’re trying to keep the essence of quaint Southern living.”

But former association leader Tom Callan is disturbed by landscape disappearing as new roofs rise. “Trees are continually being knocked down to build,” he said.

The changes come after Ballentine residents passed on a chance to have greater influence on new development.

Residents rejected the idea of creating a municipality – promoted as the way to largely control what comes – for a 2008 referendum. Many were worried about higher taxes.

Some are interested in trying again to incorporate. But efforts to revive the idea have fizzled.

Long doesn’t regret opposing the plan even though he is dissatisfied with county oversight of local growth.

“They’re too generous with developers,” he said. “There’s not much control at all.”

Irmo’s inroads

Ballentine has no official borders even though it has its own ZIP code – of 29002 – as well as a park, elementary school, library and post office bearing its name.

The area generally is considered bounded by I-26 on the north, Lake Murray on the south, the Lowman Home, a Lutheran retirement community, on the west and S.C. 6 on the east.

Those traditional borders are being nibbled at by neighboring Irmo.

The town has annexed small pieces of Ballentine during the past decade, taking in new subdivisions after focusing first on retail sites.

Irmo isn’t interested in taking in large swaths of Ballentine, but it will continue to add portions selectively, Mayor Hardy King said.

Most sites targeted are undeveloped tracts on Irmo’s north and west edges. And some builders prefer working with Irmo’s guidelines rather than the county’s, King said.

Other requests come from landowners who feel town officials are more sympathetic, he said.

But some Ballentine residents complain that Irmo officials ignore concerns that more homes and stores threaten to overwhelm the area.

“Growth can be a cancer,” said real estate broker John Mitchell, who is unhappy that a neighborhood of 240 homes will rise a few blocks from his home.

Cope, not oppose

Tweed and wife Joan keep a “welcome to the lake” banner in the front yard of their home on a lake cove opposite a new apartment complex.

The couple looks at the influx as a challenge to manage, not prevent. They hope simply to try to lessen the impact of having more homes, saying an effort to wall off Ballentine is impractical.

One result of that approach sits across the cove from their home.

Talks with developers led to a four-story apartment complex instead of a pair of 14-story towers initially proposed.

The welcome mat is out for projects that seem appropriate, the couple said.

“We know that living here is as good as it gets,” Les Tweed said. “More people are discovering that. We just don’t want things to get out of control.”