Compromise Reached in County Rec Center Feud

WINNSBORO (Dec. 25, 2015) – District 3 County Councilman Walter Larry Stewart, who has been locked in a standoff with Council Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) over the location of a shared recreational facility, announced at the close of Council’s Dec. 15 meeting that the two had reached a compromise.

The recreation facility, Stewart said, would be built in Mitford.

Mitford resident Carol Turner, during Council’s Nov. 9 meeting, made a pitch to Council for erecting the facility just off Highway 200 on the site of the old Mitford Community School. The school has been owned by the Mitford Community Club, of which Turner is a member, 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.

Under the County’s revised recreation plan, approved on Oct. 12, the two districts agreed to share a facility. The location of the shared facility, however, was still a matter for debate.

“We have over 2,100 citizens living within a 5-mile radius of this point (the old school),” Turner told Council during their Nov. 9 meeting. “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.”

But shortly after the Nov. 9 meeting, Stewart said the plan to build in Mitford was in jeopardy.

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

Stewart himself appeared to toss a monkey wrench into the works when, two weeks later, he proposed erecting the facility on Camp Welfare Road near Carolina Adventure World. During Council’s Nov. 23 meeting, Stewart said the old school site in Mitford may, in fact, be lacking, in that it was not the preferred 5 acres and it was not located close enough to the middle of that quadrant of the county.

“I have located 6.46 acres that is a quarter of a mile from Carolina Adventure World,” Stewart said on Nov. 23. “It’s one, possibly one and one quarter miles, off Wateree Road. It’s on Camp Welfare Road.”

The alternate property, Stewart disclosed, belongs to his CMC Foundation. If the County wanted to build on it, he said, the Foundation would sell it to the County for the appraised value of the property.

After the Nov. 23 meeting, Stewart said he only proposed the Camp Welfare Road property as an alternative to satisfy the Chairwoman.

“Carolyn Robinson doesn’t want it where it’s going to be, on that county (district) line,” Stewart said. “So I just threw that out there as an alternative. I’d rather have it in Mitford. She’s trying to say it’s not in the middle of the quadrant. Well, I gave her something that’s in the middle of the quadrant. I’m not running for re-election. She is.”

Robinson after the Nov. 23 meeting said she would prefer building the facility closer to the bulk of her constituents on Lake Wateree.

“There may be 2,000 (in the Mitford area), but there’s 3,000 here (near Lake Wateree),” Robinson said. “We don’t have enough money to put one in each community. I’ve been looking on Wateree Road.”

Robinson said she hoped to iron out the dispute before the next meeting.

“It’s a matter of us sitting and talking,” she said. “We’re going to sit down and talk. There will be a resolution.”

That resolution, according to Stewart, came in time for Council’s last meeting before the holidays.