COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As smiling Midlands graduating seniors soak up their big moment, not everyone in the crowd at Colonial Life Arena is quite as carefree.
"I feel like I've been forced to do it, more or less," said Africa Olds, the aunt of one of the graduates. "I feel like they're trying to get any penny they can in any way they can get it. It's ridiculous."
Olds is upset that she had to fork over five bucks to park in a nearby garage, the Discovery Garage. Last year, and in previous years, that wasn't the case.
"I actually had to have my cousin in front of me pay for me because I didn't know we had to pay to park," she said.
It took her by surprise. It took Richland One by surprise too.
"We actually heard it on the news. It was a surprise. It's a situation where we had absolutely no input," said Commissioner Darrell Black.
The topic came up in a board meeting last night. Black hopes the district will find a better solution before next year.
"We learn from experience, and we make adjustments. Nothing's ironclad. Nothing's in stone," said Black, who added that his comments are his own, not the district's.
Board Chair Cheryl Harris hopes so too.
"We have to cater to the needs of all and the high poverty level that may exist," she said.
Harris believes, despite the change, ceremonies have gone smoothly so far, even though some like Olds aren't so thrilled.
"I think maybe if they want to keep continuing to charge us to be here, I think maybe they should change the location and think about using another location," Olds said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, WIS has learned that Richland One will now cover the fee.
Other districts are set to hold ceremonies next week at the Colonial Life Arena. No word yet if they'll be covering those fees as well.
Meanwhile, the University of South Carolina says there is plenty of free parking in the Downtown Columbia area. There's a free shuttle service available as well.
USC also pointed out that the Discovery Garage is not managed by the university. Instead, it is owned by the university's Development Foundation.