Council votes to deny funding

Published 11:03 pm Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A plea for monetary help from a recreational sports team took up more than half of Wednesday’s City Council meeting, ultimately ending in denial of its request.

The council voted to deny the requested funding of about $4,000. Even so, several members pledged personal contributions to the Suffolk Steelers organization.

“I just don’t see this as being a taxpayers’ emergency,” Councilman Charles Parr said.

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The organization hopes to send its eight-member dance team to a national finals competition in Orlando, Fla. The team is scheduled to leave Tuesday.

The only problem? Hotel rooms have to be paid for by midnight tonight, and the organization is about $4,000 short of making the trip a reality.

According to organization president Fred Green, the team expected a grant from the Pop Warner organization to pay for their hotel rooms. Instead, the grant turned out to be only about $500. About $3,500 more is needed to reserve the rooms Thursday, and further contributions are needed for gas, food and more.

Green and two other leaders in the Suffolk Steelers organization, which includes about 300 children in football and cheerleading teams, pleaded their case during late appearances at the council meeting. Green said a loss of revenue this year has been partially because the organization’s teams have not been able to play at their own field, John F. Kennedy Middle School, because the lights there are not functioning. Concession sales typically provide funding to keep the organization running, Green said.

He added Pop Warner teams who do not participate in a competition to which they’ve committed are fined $10,000 and are banned from organizational tournaments for five years.

Councilman Charles Brown implored his fellow council members to give the organization $4,000 out of the council contingency fund, which currently contains $60,000. The fund is used for discretionary items only at the express direction of City Council.

The council only narrowly voted to deny the money. Councilmen Joe Barlow, Curtis Milteer and Brown supported the motion, while Mayor Linda T. Johnson and Councilmen Robert Barclay, Jeff Gardy and Parr voted to deny it. Councilman Leroy Bennett was absent from the meeting.

In March, the same council voted unanimously to give $6,500 to the Lakeland High School marching band to help it make a trip to the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C. Some suggested Wednesday they had set a bad precedent by doing so.

“I think we probably should have thought a little bit longer the last time,” Parr said.

Johnson noted that many recreational sports teams exist in the city, and all typically participate in competitions out of the area.

“At some point, this list is going to get so long … and the money’s just going to run out,” she said.

To help the Suffolk Steelers with contributions, call Green at 237-1494.