By: C.J. Westfall of SummervilleSentinel.com (South Carolina)
For many of us 2020 was a year many would like to forget. Between a major pandemic and a National election cycle that seemed to dominate headlines all year, one local bright spot was buried in the fray despite deserving more celebration.
The popular beverage Sparkling Ice launched a new initiative in 2020 called “The 2020 Cheers to You Town Beautification project” intended to:
“.. spread some sparkle and cheer during difficult times, we’ve decided to team up with small towns across the country to give back in a big way. At the start of 2020, the team sought out three unique towns, whose parks and recreational areas were in need of rebuilding, restoration or enhancements. After learning more about individual community needs, we partnered with each town to create a special beautification project. Construction plans will begin this summer and will be completed by the fall.”
That’s just what they did here in Summerville, South Carolina where Sparkling Ice agreed to “sponsor” the construction of new pickleball courts in Summerville at no cost to the taxpayer. The Town will maintain the courts with the Parks and Rec department but construction costs were covered entirely by a private business.
From Summerville Journal Scene:
Summerville Mayor Ricky Waring said the town’s partnership with Sparkling Ice- means the courts are no cost to taxpayers.
“The town is working to keep up with the area’s growth and high demand for more recreational activities,” said Summerville Mayor Ricky Waring. “The town is excited about this partnership and will continue to look for ways to provide high quality services as we build a vibrant future for Summerville.”
This isn’t the only project Sparkling Ice has taken on, they’ve also restored a youth baseball field in Kentucky and funded construction on an outdoor musical play area in Texas.
In 2019 when the Town of Summerville first proposed the idea of an outdoor ice rink subsidized by taxpayer dollars I went and spoke at Town Council about how the Town could potentially save the taxpayers money by looking for a private sponsor to cover the costs. My argument was, if the ice rink was so popular than that was all the more incentive for a private business to step in to use the opportunity for sponsorship as a marketing tool for their business.
It’s estimated that Summerville Dream (a local non profit) was unable to fully repay the taxpayers in early 2020 when the first taxpayer subsidized ice rink was finished coming up short by $50-60,000.
So why not build on this model with Sparkling Ice that saved the taxpayers money and provided a valuable public service?
In 2019 Dorchester County, South Carolina residents approved two multi-million dollar referendum proposals that would increase millage (propoerty taxes) and bonds to fund new park and library projects. At the time, those pushing these referendums referred to anyone who disagreed with the ballot items as “C.A.V.E. people” an acronym meaning “citizens against virtually everything” insinuating that there was a vocal group of people that would be against any new project the government had to offer. Post and Courier columnist Brian Hicks referred to us as “cantankerously cheap” for opposing the ballot initiatives.
The problem with these criticisms are they were intellectually dishonest, at the time of the referendums I had proposed this exact idea the Town of Summerville used to fund the pickleball courts, to be used on the new parks and library projects. I wasn’t against the ice rink or new parks and library projects I was against the outdated methods of adding new debt and spending to pay for them when corporations around the country are itching for community projects to participate in for good PR on their businesses. I was laughed off for saying we should invite major corporations to “sponsor” these projects, and told that my privatization ideas were “unrealistic” by multiple Dorchester County Councilmen.
Well now we have a shining example locally of this success here in Summerville. Mayor Waring and Town Council deserve the credit for bringing another great public service to the Town without taxpayers having to be on the hook for construction costs. With a booming residential population and government’s scrambling to provide adequate public services to meet their needs, privatization could be the future of bringing great services without raising property tax burdens on residents.
The next 20 years will require new, bold, and creative ideas to serve a diverse growing population. Trusting the free market to step up rather than coming to the taxpayers for more money each year could be a scalable model of success to take Summerville and the rest of the country into the next generation.