The survey official along with two Charlotte-based architects met with locals Monday at two public forums to reveal the results of the telephone survey. The group also wanted to collect additional feedback on what county residents would look for in a community/recreational facility.
The telephone survey of 200 Scotland County residents indicated that 38 percent are “very likely” to use a community center, if it is built.
Another 36 percent said that they were “somewhat likely” to use such a facility. The survey said 24 percent reported that they are “not likely” to use the center, if built, with 2 percent saying that they “don’t know.”
With a plus or minus six percent sampling error, the surveying firm stated that the survey has a 95 percent “level of confidence.”
Derek Williams of the firm Site Solutions emphasized that this feasibility study represents only a “very preliminary” step in the process that could end with a community/recreation facility being constructed in the county.
“At this early stage, it does appear that there is pretty strong interest in (a community center in Scotland County),” Williams told the eight or so people at the afternoon forum in the Laurinburg City Council chambers.
Another forum was hosted at the Dulin Center on the Scotland Memorial Hospital campus later in the day.
The details of what a Scotland County community center might look like are beginning to come into focus.
It seems likely that any community center that is built will include activities for adults and children as well as a swimming pool. Based on survey responses from those that were at least “somewhat likely” to frequent a community center, locals are most interested in a community center that has “activities for adults not seniors” (95 percent), a swimming pool (94 percent), “activities for children” (94 percent) and “group exercise classes” (94 percent).
Also on the wish list for locals is an indoor walking track, activities for teenagers and health education (all favored by 93 percent).
The most outspoken attendee at the early forum was Scotland County native Charles Parker, who expressed skepticism about the quality of the study and about the necessity and affordability of a community center.
Parker used an extended metaphor to explain his concern about the construction of a community center and its continued funding.
“I love ice cream, and if someone asked me if I would like some ice cream I would tell them ‘You bet your bottom dollar I would.’ But if they then told me that it was $5 a scoop, well then they have left me behind.
“There are no free lunches, and at some point someone will be paying for this,” Parker said.
Scotland County Parks and Recreation Director Shannon Newton and County Manager Kevin Patterson both attempted to assuage Parker’s concerns, explaining that a community center is still likely years away from construction — if it is to be built at all.
“It’s easy to get the money to build it. We can get grant money and local contributions to build it. It is the ongoing operations cost that is the concern for the county. This study is just to see if there is local interest,” Newton said.
According to Patterson, there is “no way” that such a facility could be constructed next year if it is dependent on county funding.
“There is also no reason not to begin determining interest now, so that down the road, when we have the money to spend, we can already have this information,” Patterson said.
More optimistic about the construction of a community center was local Jan Schmidt. Speculating that such a facility could serve as an incentive for people to move to the county, Schmidt said that its construction should be considered an investment in the community.
So preliminary is the feasibility study that it is not yet known who would actually own the community center, if it were to be built. Ownership would determine what entity assumes liability for the center, as well as responsibility for its maintenance.
According to Williams, the success of any community center project in Scotland County would depend on several organizations working together and sharing in the cost.
Joining forces to fund the early stages of the process are the city of Laurinburg, Scotland Health Care System and the Scotland County Recreation Foundation. Those groups evenly split the $26,500 surveying cost.