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City’s splash pad built using funds intended for downtown improvements — By Tommy Purser

I listened with interest to a video recording of last week’s meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council. A question was asked about whether the city still owned the splash pad or the county had taken over ownership.
The mayor said something to the effect that the city had spent some $300,000 to build the splash pad and no one had agreed to pay the city $300,000 for the facility.
I had already been told by county officials that the mayor had told them he wanted the county to take over the facility. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but that was the belief county officials had. So the commission acted accordingly and, at a recent meeting, voted to take over the facility if, indeed, the city wanted to turn it over to them.
At last week’s city meeting, the mayor’s statement appeared to indicate that he wanted the county to pay the city $300,000 for the splash pad.
Ward 3 City Commissioner Diane Leggett, upon learning the splash pad had cost the city $300,000, asked how the splash pad was paid for. It was a legitimate question.
The mayor responded, “That was money that was put into an account and it sat there and it was used prior to some of us even being here.”
Not exactly.
Let me explain. While I was on the council, and the current mayor was in office, I suggested the council ask the voters to approve a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum that devoted $500,000 to “downtown improvements.” At that meeting, council member Dywayne Johnson said he’d like to see improvements made to the city’s parks so we agreed to present the referendum to the voters as $500,000 for “streetscape improvements and city park improvements.”
The voters approved and, the council waited as SPLOST revenues built up with plans to use the funds to match grants to make major improvements to Hazlehurst’s downtown area.
The money built up in the city’s SPLOST account and, after I got off the council, the council, at the mayor’s suggestion, used the funds to, instead, build the splash pad.
And a lot more than $300,000 was spent on the project which was supposed to cost just $200,00.
So, the money to build the splash pad was not just “money that was put into an account” and while it was “used prior to some of us even being here” the only one not on the council when the expenditure was approved was Mrs. Leggett.

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