Fort Mill Times

Croquet funding in sticky wicket

An honored weekend request means the Tree City is closer to getting a croquet court.

In September, Mayor Bob Runde announced plans to bring a croquet court to Tega Cay. The court, which sparked some residents to protest the plan, was to be funded in part with money the city borrowed and revenues acquired through pre-sold croquet memberships.

That plan changed, according to an election flyer distributed earlier this week.

That flyer, for Runde's reelection campaign, said that last weekend, Runde requested in excess of $30,000 from a Turner Foundation representative. The flyer notes that Runde asked Judy Turner Carpenter to have the Turner Foundation provide the funding for the proposed croquet court.

According to the flyer, she agreed. However, that's not exactly accurate, Carpenter said Tuesday.

“That would not be coming from the Turner Foundation,” she said of the requested $50,000. “That would be coming from me.”

The reason is twofold, Carpenter said of extending that proposed loan that would be repaid of out the croquet membership dues.

“My father was there when Tega Cay was founded,” she said. “He just loved that city.”

Making the funds available also helps fill a void, she said.

“The Turner Foundation did the ball field for the kids,” she said. “The seniors need to have something that they thoroughly enjoy. To do something for Tega Cay is always a privilege.”

Runde twice announced his revised plan, including Friday at the Beach and Swim Center and Sunday at Runde Field. However, he said, no council members were privy to that arrangement until earlier this week.

“No council members were there,” Runde said.

Councilman John Dervay said he first learned of the negotiation last Monday. He said he has reservations about the funding plan, announced the weekend before city elections in which eight candidates, including Runde, were running for office. Two council seats, including Dervay's, were up for grabs.

“Clearly, he's pandering [for] votes,” Dervay said about Runde. “One of the things that I'm surprised about in this election is that Runde acts like he's scared of losing.”

Runde's opponent in the race was Councilman George Sheppard. Election results were not available before this story went to press on Tuesday afternoon.

Before last weekend, city officials planned to fund the croquet court in part with money the city borrowed to fix its damaged greens at Carolina Pines and Grand View golf courses. Those courses reopened Nov. 1. The reminding $50,000 would be set aside for fire hydrants and/or the proposed croquet field. At that time, each project was an estimated $25,000, triggering a shortfall for the croquet project.

The shortfall, Runde pledged during a previous council meeting, will not be covered with taxpayer money. Instead, he proposed that pre-sold croquet memberships totaling $13,000 would make up the difference. In mid-October, the effort had generated $7,200 – a gap of more than $5,000.

“What that means is when we get the final project quote and approval from council on location, then we will know how to fund the project,” Runde said of the funding he arranged.

And it comes without having to tap taxpayers' wallets, he said.

“Therefore, no bond money or interest will be needed,” the election flyer notes. “The croquet court will provide additional revenues to our clubhouse without requiring any taxpayer funds.”

That method of financing and the location of the croquet court must receive approval from the Tega Cay City Council. If that happens, city leaders will consider bids for croquet project. A minimum of three bids must be obtained by the city before construction begins on the croquet court.

As recently as last Friday, city officials received an estimate of about $50,000 for the croquet court that is projected to be located on the left side of the pavilion, Runde said. The plan also involves running a golf cart pass behind the croquet court to make allowances for golf cart travel between the golf courses, he said. It is anticipated that construction will be in the spring of 2010,” he said.

For now, the proposal is being reviewed by the City Manager Grant Duffield and the city's attorney, Runde said.

“They're discussing it today (Monday),” Runde said. “There are legal steps that you have to go through to do these kinds of things.”

Duffield did not immediately return calls for comments. Runde said the new plan for financing the croquet court is on schedule to present to the Tega Cay City Council on Nov. 16.