Could Camden County recreation center get rid of 3 sports?

Parents concerned because hundreds of children would be affected


CAMDEN COUNTY, Ga. – Parents in Camden County voiced concern about a recreational center possibly getting rid of three sports -- gymnastics, soccer and swimming -- which would affect hundreds of children.

Joey Cason, the executive director of the Camden County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said the three teams use the space for practice, but Cason is now trying to determine a fair amount to charge for leasing the space. 

In an email, Cason wrote, in part, it has no plans of doing away with soccer and swim teams nor gymnastics and it's trying to make sure teams are helping to cover facility expenses.

Parent Michael Lake, who is also the soccer club's president, said an agreement was made in February that the parks and recreation center would provide maintenance and use of facilities -- if the soccer team would be low cost and meet state certifications. But that changed in March.

"They’re considering us freeloaders, like, you know, we are providing them a place to do business and they’re not paying us a dime. Well, the fact of the matter is we are paying because every one of my people here pays taxes," Lake told News4Jax by phone. "We provide a soccer program at low-cost for our kids here in Camden County. We feel like the rules were changed on us in midstream and now we’re being viewed as people who are taking advantage of and, quite frankly, the cause of shortfall at PSA."

Four people were arrested last May, including the public service authority’s executive director at the time, William Brunson, according to the Georgia Bureau of investigations. Investigators said Brunson and others embezzled $1.7 million from PSA programs.

Some parents who have kids involved with gymnastics, soccer and swimming fear that becoming part of the recreation center could be a bigger issue.

"It’s concerning because what it shows ... it’s really not about the children, it’s about the money," said Melaney Spencer, a parent.

"There is no transparency at all," said Jennifer Taylor, a parent. "They meet with our coaches, meet with our board members and say one thing but present us with a hand out today that doesn’t match the most current update to date information."

Cason said he met with the Camden County soccer board, the owner of the gymnastics team and the two leaders of the swim team, and they are now working through negotiations.

If an agreement cannot be made, Cason said that for soccer and swimming, the center would take the complex and pool back and offer its own programs. He said since gymnastics is a private business and the equipment belongs to the owner, it would look at offering its own program.

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