Park picnic shelters aren’t usually lightning rods for controversy, however, a new picnic shelter in Summerfield has been the focus of major disagreement – with some in that town saying the structure is an unnecessarily expensive Tajma-shelter, while others argue that the shelter is exactly what the town needed.

The shelter was even used in campaign mailings – as seen in the picture above – in the November Town Council races, with some candidates criticizing Town Manager Scott Whitaker and the town councilmembers who supported the move.  Many of those complaining point out that Summerfield spent over $89,600 on its picnic shelter while the nearby town of Stokesdale built one the same size for about $29,700.

Two of the most vocal critics of Summerfield’s $90,000 expense are Summerfield Town Councilmember Teresa Pegram and former Summerfield Mayor Gail Dunham.  Both women said they’re flabbergasted that the town spent three times what Stokesdale did. The mayor doesn’t get a vote at Summerfield Town Council meetings unless there’s a tie, but Pegram cast a losing no vote against it.

“I don’t mind building a shelter,” Pegram said, “but I’m not ready to spend friggin’ $90,000 on one.”

She added that more picnic shelters are under consideration for Summerfield and she doesn’t want to see this happen again.  Like many others in the town, she points to the Stokesdale shelter.

“The only difference is the pitch of the roof,” Pegram said, pointing out that the Summerfield shelter has a higher-pitched roof.

According to Pegram, the angle of the roof is no benefit: It makes it so that the shelter doesn’t even protect well against the sun’s rays, she said.

New Summerfield Mayor BJ Barnes said that those who complain about the cost of the shelter are way off base.  He said the Summerfield shelter is much nicer than Stokesdale’s and is in a highly visible area.

“Their shelter is fine for something out of sight and out of mind, but ours represents Summerfield,” the mayor said.

He said anyone who examines the two shelters could clearly see the difference in quality and aesthetics.

Barnes said some people in Summerfield are just “constant naysayers.”