WINNSBORO — Around sixty people attended a rally Saturday organized by County Councilman Kamau Marcharia to protest the distribution of tax dollars in Fairfield County, in particular as related to recreation facilities on the Western side. The crowd gathered at the county courthouse to, in Marcharia’s terms, address gross disparities in economic realities around the county. He and others gathered said that in their view the unincorporated portions of the county are not getting tax dollars redistributed justly back into their communities. For one and a half hours the attendees heard a political message interspersed with scripture references and prayer, Gospel singing by St. Matthews No. 2 choir.
Marcharia called on citizens to have the courage to step up and ask elected officials about the barriers he sees from quality of life being advanced for all members of Fairfield County. He expressed frustration of many in the crowd who applauded when Marcharia criticized the council’s efforts to vote on what already had been voted upon, a theme echoed by Dawkins Community Association leader Bruce Wadsworth.
Several residents spoke on the much disputed building purchased in 2005 for the Dawkins community, a building never erected.
“We are not a poor county,” Marcharia said. “A plan was made in 2010 for the county through 2021 and that is by ordinance but there is just not a willingness to do anything about it. “If we don’t address it who will?”
With a community center, health programs could be provided as could exercise opportunities. Marcharia decried an environment where children have to hang out in juke joints and where residents have to walk in high grass or in along curvy highways in the Jenkinsville/Dawkins area. Marcharia said he requested the recreation issue be placed on the agenda for the Sept. 9 county council meeting but that instead Chairman David Ferguson opted to have a work session on the recreation issue.
For Marcharia, the time for delay and work has past. “We need to put this to a vote,” he said. “Vote it up or down. Why not place our issue on the agenda?”
Smalls researched county recreation spending online and encouraged the rally members to do the same. He said that according to audit reports he read other counties with less means spend considerably more on recreation than Fairfield.
Rev. Vandell Davis spoke, saying that even though there are dozens of churches in the county with facilities to help address some of the needs of the elderly and youth, that it will take more on the part of the county to correct what he termed “terrible grounds of neglect.”
“I worked in recreation, so I see a dire need for our people who are afraid to come out of their homes because of the situation on our streets and in our neighborhoods,” he said. “At least pray for those who want to make change and for those who need change, Davis said. “We are able. Let us work together to make the community prosperous.”
Sheriff Herman Young also spoke in support of the group and county recreation, noting how community activity can help reduce crime and improve quality of life. He called on participants to take back the message shared and be active to support the rural recreation efforts.
Monticello resident Jeff Schaffer addressed the group and noted how they had been “manipulated, lied to and promised things and then lied to again. If we get united, we can do something about it,” he said.
Dawkins parent Kisha Chaplin spoke on behalf of her children.
“How long must we continue to say no to our kids who ask about doing karate or dance because by the time we arrive home from work there is not time to take the children into the town limits (to do those things)? We need to provide those things so they have reason to want to stay in the area and raise a family in rural Fairfield County. What are we offering for our future?”
Representative MaryGail Douglas, a mother herself, shared those concerns saying when she traveled District 41 which includes portions of Chester and Richland Counties she was saddened by the state of Fairfield County recreation compared to those places.
“We have what we have because we settled for what we got. Money is not the issue. As you invest in yourself, please continue to hold us and others accountable. As elected officials, it’s our responsibility to be stewards of the tax money paid to the county,” she said.
Rev. Larry Irby fired up the crowd as he spoke of elected officials whom he claimed said they loved the entire county during the election cycle but whom he wonders if they are working in the best interest of the entire county. He wondered why the county could “keep (recreation) money in the bank instead of using it to address a pressing need?…. In the past the majority of council was for holding the funds and I can’t help but think it was personal. You can’t fight against Carnell Murphy now but the county is still with the need…. We are not asking for a hand or a handout. We are asking for the majority vote that has already been taken (to be acted upon). What are you waiting for?”
Betty Scott Bell Frazier spoke on behalf of Saving Fairfield and asked other like minded individuals to join their cause and work to improve the county by encouraging fiscal responsibility and government transparency.
Marcharia, said he considered bringing in a keynote speaker for the event but decided against it. “I determined we did not need drive by leadership. If don’t solve our problems, they will not be solved, he said. “Forever forward, backwards never.”