On the heels of the city raising water rates, the McComb city board discussed the legality of filling up a park pool for the annual Azalea Coronation held by the McComb Garden Club.

The coronation has been a yearly tradition for decades, according to Mayor Quordiniah Lockley, but Selectman Ronnie Brock had reservations about the sponsorship because of the paperwork that was filed to waive the fee for filling the pool in prior years.

“That’s kind of a touchy situation with this water,” Brock said. “We just did an increase two or three different ways.”

Another issue Brock found was that he believes the paperwork to waive the fee had been done incorrectly and brushed over in prior years.

“Some of those documents that were submitted weren’t quite in order,” Brock said. “We have not put the water legally in the pool for over 30 years.”

City attorney Angela Cockerham said she would double-check on the legality of the city paying for utilities through sponsorship before the Feb. 25 city board meeting.

“We cannot, to my knowledge, donate utilities,” Cockerham said. “That has been my understanding, but I will double-check again.”

Selectman Devante Johnson piggybacked off of Brock's statement to add that he had researched the topic and found the city could give a monetary donation for the price it would cost to fill the pool, which would cost the city $750, according to recreation director Joyce Smith. He also suggested sponsoring the coronation through advertising and promotion of the event.

“There is a statute that allows the city to advertise and give money by way of advertising,” Cockerham said.

While the Garden Club asks for the pool to be filled, another organization, the Camellia City Civic Club, also uses the facility for its own Azalea Court coronation, with the two ceremonies held within days of each other.

Johnson asked about the history of the events, which seek to honor outstanding high school youth in the area.

“Are these events still segregated?” Brock asked.  

Johnson asked how the two clubs were segregated, to which Lockley explained McComb Garden Club’s honorees are mostly white and Camellia City’s are mostly black.

“If you do a sponsorship, it’s gonna have to be from advertisement or promoting the city,” Johnson said.

Seeking clarification, Selectman Shawn Williams asked if the board could make a financial contribution to the clubs in the amount it would cost to fill the pool with water.

“(Cockerham) just told you we can’t do that,” Johnson said.

Williams suggested the clubs would want the contribution for advertising and promotion.

“I have no problem with (sponsoring) because I was part of the Azalea Court,”  Williams said. “I know the good it does for some of the kids in our community.” 

Brock said he sees an issue in that the two clubs are segregated.

“It is 2020, and these things are still segregated,” he said. “I guess they are walking around dipping in the same water.”

Johnson asked Cockerham if the clubs were nonprofit organizations because the city can give money to those. Cockerham said she would look into that before the next meeting as well.

The vote on the sponsorship had previously been tabled in November. City Administrator Dirkland Smith ended the discussion by saying the sponsorship will be pending until further advice from Cockerham.

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