At last week’s budget workshop, Commissioner Charles Rousseau urged a deeper focus on recreation and wellness, both in the short and long term.
With an expected $94,948,149 in expenditures in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, just a combined 6.3 percent will go towards culture & recreation and health & welfare.
Rousseau wondered if the talk of focusing on the health, welfare, and vitality of a community and the need to attract families was empty with such a small investment compared to the rest of the distribution.
“That number of 4.6 percent for cultural recreation and 1.7 percent for health and welfare is abysmal for a county that looks like us,” he said.
In order to grow the county by attracting young families, Fayette must have the kind of amenities, like a large recreation or health center, that will appeal to them. He asked his fellow commissioners to keep that in mind in the days and weeks and months ahead.
“They’re critical to the health and vitality of a community, and in this particular instance, our community,” he said. “I lay that at you all’s feet for your consideration.”
Rousseau asserted that recreation and wellness facilities are outdated for a prosperous county.
“Is space adequate for a modern county like Fayette? The answer for me is no,” he said, preaching the need for added investment. “It begins to bring people into this county to know that we care about health.”
Rousseau referenced a 2003 county study on wellness and wondered how much was actually accomplished with it.
“I want to see what we did from 2003 to now with the plan that we paid for. What did we achieve, or did it sit on the shelf and collect dust?” he asked. “Because I don’t see a recreation center.”
Rousseau wondered if, because so many out-of-county visitors use Fayette amenities, would it be beneficial to work with surrounding counties on new facilities.
“One of the things I’d like to consider, thinking outside of the proverbial box, is if we’re going to with our border counties share residents, perhaps we’re looking at sharing a complex or facility that people can go to,” he said. “That rubs our sensibilities funny because people perceive us as well-to-do, snobbish, standoffish in Fayette County, and that’s the reality in some situations, when you talk to folks, but that would be a unique and innovative way to approach this. We’re talking about sharing costs so nobody is carrying that burden by themselves.”
He also thought there could potentially be creative options to benefit the county while filling in empty storefronts.
“Let’s look at repurposing the Pavilion as big boxes go away,” he said. “Instead of them being eyesores, those are unique opportunities to maybe rent space. We’ve got to think strategically.”
The bottom line for Rousseau is spending the county’s money more efficiently to better the lives of its residents.
“We just need to be more thoughtful and thought-provoking on what our implication of our dollars can do to improve the quality of life for the residents of this county.”