Selective outrage

Published 6:41 pm Friday, December 6, 2019

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Last month’s vote by the Southampton County Board of Supervisors to fund Cypress Cove Country Club with a $15,000 appropriation has raised the ire of many county residents. Most in opposition to the handout say that it is inappropriate for residents’ tax dollars to be going to a private enterprise.

I stated my support for this decision in this very column when the county, and the City of Franklin, first made the decision to support the club in 2017. I believed then, as I do now, that the club and its golf course are an important community asset, in terms of it being one of very few recreational opportunities available in the county, a draw for people and businesses looking at moving into the community and as a source of important fundraising dollars for local charities and organizations.

In 2019, the club hosted several charity golf tournaments that raised significant sums for those organizations. Here are several:

• Social Services Child Abuse Prevention Tournament – $10,000

• Franklin High School Athletic Fund Tournament – $1,500

• Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce – $8,500

• Southampton Academy Athletic Fund – $15,000

• Paul D. Camp Community College Athletic Fund – $14,000

• Rock Church Community Life Center Fund – $5,000

• Bronco Federal Credit Union to benefit CHKD – $25,000

These events alone raised nearly $80,000 that went right back into the community. In addition, the club allows free access for the golf teams of Franklin High School, Southampton High School and Southampton Academy, providing $14,000 of relief this year alone to their schools’ budgets.

I don’t suspect that many folks who are angry about the Board of Supervisors decision to allocate this money will be at all swayed by the facts I have laid out here. That’s fine — we can politely agree to disagree. However, I felt it important to put into context how the county’s investment in the club actually pays off for the community far beyond allowing county residents access to play golf at the club at a reduced rate without a membership.

If we are going to have a discussion about county tax dollars going to a private organization, however, it’s important that we lay all the cards out on the table in order to have the discussion be a fair one. Cypress Cove Country Club is not the only organization that receives funding from the Board of Supervisors. Here is a list of other organizations that received funding in the county’s 2019-2020 budget, and the amounts they will receive if they have not already:

• Franklin-Southampton Community Concert Association – $4,750

• Rawls Museum Arts – $15,000

• Southampton County Historical Society – $18,500

• Blackwater Regional Library – $273,391

• Franklin Football and Cheer Organization – $3,500

• Camp 25 (youth sports and activities) – $1,000

• Capron-Drewryville Athletic Association – $1,000

• Courtland Youth Athletic Association – $1,000

• Hunterdale Ruritan Club (youth baseball and softball) – $1,000

• Ivor Community Athletics – $1,000

• Newsoms Athletic Association – $1,000

• Sedley Recreation Association – $1,000

• Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater (Christmas in the Meadows program) – $2,500

• Southampton County Softball – $1,000

• The Youth Group (youth sports and activities) – $1,000

In all, the county allocated more than $326,000 to community organizations, whether public or private, in the Parks, Recreational and Cultural section of the 2019-2020 county budget and, in my opinion, they were right to do so. I recognize that not everyone plays golf, but neither does everyone play youth baseball, visit the library or buy tickets to attend a community concert. Not everyone fishes and boats our rivers, yet state taxpayer money is spent to maintain all of the boat landings in Southampton County.

All localities should, and do, provide funding for access to cultural and athletic activities for their citizens, just as they should, and do, provide financial incentives for businesses to start or expand, or provide tax relief to those who own land for agricultural purposes.

Almost every single resident of Southampton County benefits from at least one of the subsidies handed out by the Board of Supervisors, whether it’s through the funding of youth athletics, cultural enrichment programs or the county’s land use program. What perplexes me then, I suppose, is the selective outrage over the funding of one of these entities and not any of the others. If we’re going to raise hell about one of them, we should probably raise hell about them all.

TONY CLARK is publisher of The Tidewater News. Contact him at 562-3187 or