County reviews Morgan Center upgrade

By Mary Katherine Murphy - [email protected]

LAURINBURG — Several months after Richmond Community College received a $275,000 grant to renovate the Edwin Morgan Center as a clinical instruction site for its nursing program, that project is still far from a certainty.

County Manager Kevin Patterson updated the Scotland County Board of Commissioners on recent discussions of the potential renovations, which could be a joint effort between the county and RCC.

The county is evaluating the possibility of using a section of the building to house offices currently stationed at its Covington Street administrative building. The county has received an estimate of $1 million to completely gut and rebuild the center’s interior.

But that level of remodeling may be overkill for the county’s needs, and some construction could be performed by county personnel.

“Some of the renovations for RCC, we’re still working to develop a good cost on those before we look to go forward,” he said. “Then figuring out how far we can actually go within the budget we have will determine how practical the building is and if we can get to a usable position for the Richmond Community College program within these funds.”

The building remains under the ownership of the Scotland Health Care System, whose board will ultimately have to agree to sale or donation of the center.

In the meantime, RCC is seeking other grants in addition to the Golden LEAF grant announced in June and the county is evaluating the Morgan building’s long-term needs.

“We’re trying to look at the entire facility costs in addition to just the cost for the renovation,” said Patterson.

In other business, the commissioners heard from staff of Scotland Correctional Institution on its efforts to rehabilitate offenders and prevent recidivism.

The largest prison in North Carolina, Scotland Correctional houses some 1,600 inmates in close, medium, and minimum security. It employs 522 people, and currently has more than 40 open positions.

The prison has several education and employment structures for inmates, depending on their level of custody, including car repair, sewing, and Braille.

“We know that most of these inmates, when they get out, they’re coming to our communities,” said prison administrator Katy Poole. “They’re going to be our neighbors, so why not help them now? They’ve gotten in trouble, they’ve done their time, so we need to help them become our neighbors and move forward with their lives.”

Patterson also informed the commissioners that the U.S. Army continues to use, as it has for years, a defunct golf ball plant at the Laurinburg-Maxton Airbase as a special forces training facility. Earlier this year, the board issued a conditional use permit limiting the military training activities that may take place there, but according to Patterson local ordinances do not restrict federal activities.

Commissioner Whit Gibson suggested that Patterson make a formal written suggestion of alternative training sites where that use is consistent with county zoning.

“I would not wait nine months, but go ahead and send them something now offering those same sites and your explanations to why,” he said.

“They understand what they have to do and what they don’t, but a lot of times they do try to work with locals,” Patterson replied.

Also on Monday, the commissioners:

— Authorized the ABC Store to spend $70,000 in store revenue for remodeling.

— Approved the purchase of a new chiller for the courthouse at a cost of $59,900.

— Appointed Juliet McMillan to a third term on the Jury Commission.

— Appointed Mary Jo Adams to the Scotland County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.

By Mary Katherine Murphy

[email protected]

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