A West Point resident is asking the county to investigate the city of West Point’s usage of special-purpose, local-option sales tax funds, alleging the city is improperly using the funds to benefit Point University.
Mike O’Brien has called for an investigation of the city’s use of SPLOST money to renovate its gym and ball fields on U.S. 29, which now is in use by Point University’s athletic programs. He said the plans for the athletic facility and fields and their connection to Point University were not fully disclosed to voters during the SPLOST referendum.
“I’m alleging that the voters were the victims of fraud,” O’Brien said.
The city is expecting about $6 million in the next round of SPLOST, which was approved by voters in November 2011. West Point City Council decided earlier this year to bond $4 million of that money and start renovations at its recreation facilities right away before the tax revenues start coming in.
O’Brien says that when the redevelopment plan that included the athletic facility was hatched – with public input – one complaint of city residents surveyed was that recreation facilities were “over scheduled” and not available for regular use.
He told commissioners Friday that the city would be giving Point exclusive access to some areas and feared it would be less a community facility and more for exclusive use of the university and its students. He also alleges that the city has spent money on university needs, like temporary showers, that will come out of its SPLOST funds for the facility.
Friday, he asked the County Commission to ask for an investigation of the use of SPLOST funds. He also alleged that certain funds were being spent that were not on capital improvements, which SPLOST money is required to be used for and estimated there was undocumented city money being used on the project.
“We have a Point University athletic facility – we have one – and we didn’t vote for it,” O’Brien said.
County Manager Tod Tentler said that O’Brien needs to bring the issue up to West Point City Council, which he has yet to do, but the county will look into all SPLOST payments when they are started and ensure they are done correctly.
“I think those are West Point city issues. They voted unanimously to do these things,” Tentler told O’Brien.
Commissioner Buck Davis said the county would investigate any misappropriation of funds. O’Brien said he was more concerned about what he felt was deception of voters and that an investigation could clarify if there was any wrongdoing.
Jeff Todd, speaking as West Point’s city attorney, said that the agreement between the city and Point University is not secret. He said the renovations benefit the city as well as Point University, and that voters approved the measure to allow West Point to decide how to accomplish its goal of renovating athletic facilities.