Friday, February 13, 2004

City to FOH: Don’t spend money yet


Last week, the Peachtree City Council approved 3-2 the transfer of $13,500 from the recreation department’s fence maintenance budget to pay for the fencing and sodding of a regular T-ball field being built next to the Field of Hope.

But Field of Hope officials have been notified in a letter from the city not to spend that money yet, according to Mayor Steve Brown, who voted against the measure as did Councilman Murray Weed.

“They have been notified, ‘Do not expend any money based upon what we offered them at that meeting,’” Brown said.

Brown directed city staff Monday to prepare a memo to the council recommending that it rescind its decision to use the $13,500 for the fencing of the T-ball field, which passed 3-2 with Brown and Weed in opposition to the grant.

“None of us imagined this would be a political football, but it has, and I hate to see the FOH (Field of Hope) in the middle of it,” wrote Randy Gaddo, the city’s director of leisure services, in an e-mail to Field of Hope officials.

Field of Hope organizers will meet Monday night and consider possibly returning all of the funds to the city.

The motion to provide the $13,500 for fencing passed at last week’s council meeting with approval from council members Steve Rapson, Stuart Kourajian and Judi-ann Rutherford in favor. Weed joined Brown in dissent. Council also approved 5-0 the donation of $5,000, the maximum amount the city can donate to a non-profit organization.

Brown argued that city can’t give the $13,500 to the Field of Hope board because it violates the city’s policy limiting the amount of money the city can donate to a non-profit to a $5,000 maximum.

“We’re taking money out of the general fund and giving it to a 501(c)3,” Brown said, adding that he does not oppose the $5,000 contribution to the Field of Hope board.

He just thinks the $5,000 should be all the city is responsible for.

“We want them to do it,” Brown said of the fencing and sod work for the T-ball field. “It’s their project.”

The Field of Hope is a specially-designed baseball field that features a rubberized surface so players in wheelchairs and walkers can participate much easier than they could on a regular ball field.

Jim Daughtry, who is on the Field of Hope board, said the T-ball field was important to the Field of Hope’s success because they want disabled youths to experience regular exposure with non-handicapped kids to enhance “mainstreaming.”

Brown said the $13,500 for fence work on the T-ball field being built next to the Field of Hope violates the Georgia anti-gratuities law which governs how cities divvy out money to other parties. The mayor also complained the action opened the door up for other non-profit groups to request funds earmarked for other projects in city budgets.

Councilman Steve Rapson, who supports the $13,500 being shifted from the city to the Field of Hope, said it just makes sense for the city to “partner with non-profits.”

Rapson added that earmarking the $13,500 for the fence and sod materials was approved by the city’s recreation commission, city manager, director of leisure services and all the other recreation associations that operate programs in the city.

“It was kind of a no-brainer,” Rapson said.

Rapson said the city would do as it always does and secure a contract with the Field of Hope board that outlines the benefit the city gets for its $5,000 contribution as a non-profit agency.

“We’re still following CAR 8-3 to the letter,” Rapson said of the policy that limits non-profit donations from the city to a $5,000 maximum.

Rapson said he didn’t mind council listening to similar requests to shift funds from city budgets if those requests are recommended for approval by city staff.

City staff should have the flexibility to present such requests to council if they are appropriate, Rapson added.

Brown contends that Field of Hope officials declined his assistance to try and seek grant funding from the state department of community affairs.

Field of Hope officials said the money will be raised; they are currently short roughly $75,000 to get everything finished in time for the projected opening day Saturday, April 17.


What do you think of this story?
Click here to send a message to the editor.

Back to News Home Page | Back to the top of the page