Mayor: Laurinburg needs to push recreation center

Scott Witten - [email protected]

LAURINBURG — Laurinburg will have to take the lead on getting a new recreation center if the project is ever going to get built, Mayor Matthew Block told city officials this week.

But most of the Laurinburg City Council seem unsure of the project or the city’s role in it.

Council did agreed to move forward with the idea, but not before peppering Block with questions and concerns.

Several council members said they “had the impression” that the mayor wanted the city to pay for the recreation center that is expected to cost about $3 million.

Council member J.D.Willis suggested that the county, which operates recreation in Scotland, be a partner along with Scotland Memorial Hospital and St. Andrews University.

Council member Drew Williamson agreed.

“I’m not comfortable with us going it alone,” Williamson said. “What’s the harm in discussing it with the county?”

Council member Curtis Leak wanted to know if county residents would have access to a recreation center that was financed by Laurinburg. Leak said that was the reason the city shut down its recreation department 30 years ago.

“We had county people using it and coming from Maxton and everywhere else,” he said. “That is why we got out of the recreation business. My question is will the county people share the fruits of our labors … will they get a free ride?”

Block said the city could could up with a variety of options and partners to finance and operate the center.

“All that has to be discussed,” he said. “I just wanted to to give an overall point of view without getting into the weeds of the project. I wanted you to see the kind of numbers we were looking at to get it off the ground.”

Block provided council with a floor plan and sketch from Oakley Collier Architects of what the facility might look like. The proposed 20,898-square foot center would be located on the just-cleared eight-acre lot owned by the McDonalds Brothers off South Main Street. The facility would include a gym, elevated walking track, multipurpose room, conference room, kitchen and two offices.

The center would cost about $3 million and the land another $1 million, according to Block. He said the center’s operating budget would be between $50,000 and $100,000 annually.

The mayor said the next step would be to have Laurinburg Community Development Director Michael Mandeville and county Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Graham work on plan to develop the recreation center to show council in the spring of 2017.

Some of council balked at that idea too, saying Mandeville “had enough on his plate” and the city had no authority to assign projects to the county parks and recreation director.

“I don’t think it is the role of the Laurinburg community development director to develop a plan for recreation,” council member Mary Jo Adams said. “This shouldn’t be driven by the city… it should be driven by the county.”

When Block told Adams that the county has failed to take the lead on the project, she said “oh well.”

“No, not well Ms. Adams … this is what the citizens want,” Block said. “This is not going to be driven by the county. It is not a priority and … it is not going to happen with us just saying come back in four or five months with a plan.”

Block added that more recreational offerings do aid the development of the city and would fall under Mandeville’s purview.

“It is not like we are asking Mike to go out and do sewer work,” Block said.

Willis said the city should share the idea and Graham’s possible involvement with the county Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and County Manager Kevin Patterson.

“Let them know what has been discussed here and see what direction they want to go in,” Willis said. “If they say forget it and they are not going to do it, at least we will have heard from them and we can go back to the drawing board and talk with other possible partners.”

Scott Witten

[email protected]

Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023

Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023

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