LAURINBURG — In her last meeting with the department’s advisory board before retiring this week, Scotland County Parks and Recreation Director Shannon Newton laid out the next set of decisions to be made in reducing and repurposing the county’s existing parks.
Among them will be taking action on the Laurel Hill Community Center and deciding whether to renovate or demolish the former high school gymnasium and auditorium buildings, which date from the 1920s. Neither option is inexpensive: $250,000 to demolish or $300,000 to renovate plus $100,000 each year for staff to run the center full-time.
“Laurel Hill is the biggest albatross the county’s got right now,” Newton said. “Part of the reason to think about this is the cost to you as taxpayer. Not only is there an emotional tie to the facility, but there’s a cost. To tear it down it would cost $227,000 plus the asbestos abatement.
“Option two is to completely renovate and staff the building if you’re going to have a building.”
Other considerations to be made in the coming years include the restroom facilities at Hammond Park, which have no connection to city sewer and could be converted to a picnic shelter, and future use of Presbyterian Park. The park was once frequently used for baseball, softball, and T-ball games, which have now been moved to the James L. Morgan Recreation Complex.
“I think it’s a valid, viable part of the community and we can convert that to an open space,” Newton said, acknowledging the emotional connection many residents have to the facilities in question.
Any parks and recreation advisory board recommendation would need approval by the Scotland County Board of Commissioners to take effect.
Also on Tuesday, county Human Resources Director Susan Butler updated the advisory board on the search for Newton’s replacement. The county began advertising the vacancy last month, and has received eight applications so far — four from local candidates.
The county hopes to have a new parks and recreation director in place by June 1. After Newton steps down, athletic superintendent Al Blades will act as interim director.
“If the next director is in the applications that we already have, it could be quicker,” said County Manager Kevin Patterson. “Because this position is so important, our goal is not just to fill the position. Like most of our hires, we try to find the right person. Whether or not Al wants to admit it, it will be a lot easier for him to keep things moving along than to put the wrong person in place and for us to try to fix their mistakes.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.