One More Hurdle for Recreation Plan

WINNSBORO (Nov. 13, 2015) – While County Council approved at their Oct. 12 meeting a leaner, meaner recreation plan that included combining resources to construct a community center to serve districts 2 and 3, internal divisions over where, exactly, to place that facility have since put Council members at odds with their leadership, sources told The Voice last week.

“She (Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson, District 2) originally came up with the proposal to put it (a community center) in Mitford,” District 3 Councilman Walter Larry Stewart confirmed Tuesday. “Then for some reason at the last minute she wants to move it 8-9 miles down the road toward Lake Wateree.”

During Monday night’s Council meeting, a member of the Mitford Community Club proposed erecting the center just off Highway 200 on the site of the old Mitford Community School, which the club has owned since 1950. The Club converted the school into a community center shortly after purchasing it from the County, and leases portions of the property back to the County for the Mitford Volunteer Fire Department and a County mini park, each for $1 a year. The property sits on the boundary between districts 2 and 3.

“We have over 2,100 citizens living within a 5-mile radius of this point (the old school),” Carol Turner told Council Monday. “Yet the only problem comes because of the way things (voting districts) had to be divided. This community is divided, and as you know there’s just not enough money to do everything for everybody. Neighbors living across the road are competing for services, which is unnecessary.

“If it is possible to build a community center at this location to serve all of these citizens of Mitford, the Community Club, which still owns the property, potentially could make it very economically feasible in a lease agreement to build,” Turner concluded. “For citizens services, for logical location and for fiscal feasibility, the community center needs to be placed right here at the old Mitford School site.”

Councilman Billy Smith (District 7) noted that the Oct. 12 vote to build a facility to serve the two districts was “contingent upon finding a location,” and asked Stewart if Turner’s presentation indicated that the County was closer to finding that location.

“We’ve got the location,” Stewart answered, “and they said they would lease it to us very economically. We need something there where we can hold community meetings, family reunions, programs for our seniors, after-school programs for our kids, summer programs for our kids. We’ve got roughly 2,000 people up there within a 5-mile radius on that boundary where we’re looking at putting this facility.”

Minutes from the Oct. 12 meeting, however, state that the community building is “contingent upon purchase of land,” not lease of land. The minutes also make no specific mention of placing the facility in the Mitford community.

Robinson was absent from Monday’s Council meeting for reported medical reasons and Stewart said the Chairwoman also failed to show at a community meeting in Mitford last week. Phone calls to Robinson were not returned at press time.

Interim County Administrator Milton Pope, in his report to Council Monday, said County staff should have the official documentation for the recreation projects finalized this week. The only thing Council had left to decide, Pope told The Voice Tuesday, was the physical location of the districts 2 and 3 community center. Should the Chairwoman persist in her push to locate the facility closer to Lake Wateree, Stewart said there was a backup plan.

“I am 99 percent certain this center is going to get built (in Mitford),” Stewart said. “I have $500,000 that was allocated to my district. Two other council members have money they did not use. If she (Robinson) pulls her money, I have been assured they will put their money in.”