On Monday night, Coach Randy Vaughn grilled the Hampton County Council like a youth league volunteer would grill a hot dog at a ballpark concession stand.
After penning two blistering open letters to County Council, which were published in The Hampton County Guardian, Vaughn further held Council to the fire during the public forum portion of its July 19 meeting.
“When will Council explain its plan to the citizens on fulfilling their promise to build a recreation facility in Hampton County?” asked Vaughn. “Now is the time to explain what it will take to fulfill your promise of 2012 to the people of Hampton County to build a recreation complex.”
Vaughn, well-known and respected in South Carolina youth sports, addressed Council after a one-cent, local Capital Projects Sales Tax initiative, which ended on May 1, failed to live up to its full potential and failed to deliver on recreational needs much sought-after by many citizens throughout the county.
In addition to improving recreational facilities in the outlying areas of our rural county, including facilities in Yemassee and Estill, the CPST was also slated to fund a new multi-purpose recreational complex centrally located in the county, for use by the entire county. To date, not one shovel of dirt has been turned on these projects, noted Vaughn.
According to county officials, the penny sales tax plan did not collect as much money as anticipated. Critics, however, say that poor planning and poor decision making may have been a factor, or that funds may have been mismanaged. See related story.
At 69 years old, Vaughn has spent the last 52 years of his life involved in recreational and sports activities for young people. He has worked with programs in the South Carolina communities of Conestee, Greenville, Hampton, Greenwood, as well as Jefferson City, Tennessee. He returned to his hometown to enjoy retirement and help his son, Joel, coach the local high school baseball team.
After giving individual members of Council his full respect, acknowledging some as his mentors, and others as his former players, and quoting Ben Franklin—“It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”—the longtime coach kept the hot-button issue on the griddle.
“The ideal scenario is for government to continually keep its citizens informed. I beg you to inform your citizens of your plan to fulfil your promise of building a recreation complex back in 2012.”
“One of the reasons I am here tonight is because I do not believe Council has adequately informed the people of why the Capital Project Sales Tax Plan failed our citizens.” Vaughn continued. “The people voted for it in good faith, believing you would do what you promised. Your failure to deliver on this issue may very well stalemate future endeavors that might benefit the County.”
A large crowd turned out Monday, with many openly stating they came in support of Vaughn, recreation and our children.
“We are here this evening to let you know we value recreational opportunities for the people of Hampton County,” said Vaughn. “We have waited long enough for our elected officials to act on this important initiative. Your inaction causes concern. We the people believe it is past time for you to deal with this issue.”
“I am glad to see you included a report on the CPST program tonight. Your silence on this topic has been deafening. I believe your lack of information to the people on this subject has contributed to rumors and a basic lack of understanding among your citizens… Now is the time to explain what it will take to fulfill your promise of 2012 to the people of Hampton County to build a recreation complex.”
During his comments, Vaughn acknowledged that three youth league baseball teams recently represented Hampton County in the State Dixie Youth Tournaments in Orangeburg, Union and Clemson, on facilities the like of which our county doesn’t offer. He added that he has toured several recreational complexes across the state, from larger areas like Orangeburg and Colleton County to nearby smaller counties like Jasper and Bamberg.
“Frankly, it burdens me that our kids do not have the opportunity to practice and play on decent fields like their competition does in other areas of the state,” Vaughn said emotionally.
Vaughn concluded his public remarks to Council by asking 11 questions on behalf of the public. Those questions were:
1. “Does council have any knowledge of missing funds or unaccounted expenditures?”
2. Has anyone donated property to the county to be used for recreational activities?
3. When will Council explain its plan to the citizens on fulfilling their promise to build a recreation facility in Hampton County?
4. How many grants have been applied for through either federal agencies or through S.C. agencies like the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism to help defray the cost of a recreation complex?
5. How much of the CPST money has been spent for anything that is not listed on the CPST document?
6. How much money has been transferred from the CPST funds to the general fund?
7. Of the amount transferred from the CPST account to the general fund, how much has been transferred back to the CPST account?
8. Why was the priority of the recreation complex changed from the original document?
9. How much money today could be dedicated to a recreation complex?
10. What were the results of the first recreation study that was done at the beginning of the promise to the people?
11. When will the public learn the results of the $60,000 recreation study Council authorized in May?
Upon completion of his remarks, Vaughn received a rousing round of applause from the packed Council Chambers, which including many supporters standing outside in the adjacent hallway. Councilman Noah Alexander, the newest and youngest member of Council, also applauded his speech.
As is standard protocol for public speaking sessions, Council gave no immediate answers and offered no comment, except to thank the coach for his remarks and promise to respond to his questions as appropriate at a later date.