On a soggy and cold morning Scotland County’s Board of Commissioners set out in a public transport van on a tour of more than a dozen of the facilities they are responsible for overseeing.
The road trip started at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Covington Street administration building, where the commissioners were shown the government offices there by County Manager Kevin Patterson. It ended hours later that afternoon at the county’s recreation headquarters, following stops in Laurel Hill, Spring Hill and Wagram.
“(As the commissioners begin budget planning) it’s a good time for them to see the facilities,” Patterson said.
In addition to providing a tour of the government offices and storage areas, Patterson pointed out the numerous areas of water damage caused by the Covington Street building’s leaky roof.
The idea for the tour came from discussions between Patterson and Chairman Guy McCook.
McCook was joined by commissioners Carol McCall, John Alford, Bob Davis and Whit Gibson on the tour. The commissioners were accompanied by staff representatives at each location and by Finance Officer Charles Nichols and Ann Kurtzman, the county clerk.
Following the tour of the Covington Street facility, the group toured the Scotland County Courthouse and the attached sheriff’s office and jail.
Register of Deeds Debra Holcomb shared her concerns about the county’s record keeping operations and encouraged the commissioners to consider the digitizing of all of the county’s historical records over the coming years.
“They need to be archived,” Holcomb said of the county’s older records. “Most counties do have all their records online and we really do need to get these records on. If we have a flood or fire … it would take probably years (to recover).”
From there the commissioners were joined by Clerk of Court Philip McRae, who took them on a tour of his office.
Having served for 27 years as Clerk of Court, Gibson found himself in demand during this leg of the tour, being greeted by many of the staff with whom he once shared the Courthouse.
“He’s the only one here who knows this building better than I do,” McRae said. “He knows where all the skeletons are buried.”
McRae highlighted the workload of his staff, which processes thousands of documents on a daily basis.
After a quick stop in each of the county’s court rooms, the commissioners were taken by Sheriff Shep Jones through his offices and the jail.
Jones made note of the extensive security features of the jail and also of its efficiency.
According to Jones, low-risk inmates, called “trustees,” are used to do much of the day-to-day work in the jail. That work includes washing dishes, doing laundry and cleaning.
“It really saves money,” Jones said.
Much of the savings in the upcoming energy savings contract that the county has agreed to with Johnson Controls will come through the modernization of fixtures and the improvement of water flow in the jail.
From the jail the commissioners traveled to a county locale with a very different atmosphere, the Scotland County Memorial Library. Met there by Library Director Leon Gyles, the commissioners were informed about the library’s operations, stopping briefly to admire the collection.
The commissioners also visited sites elsewhere in the county, including the Laurel Hill Community Center and the Wagram Recreation Center before concluding their day at the Morgan Recreation Complex back in Laurinburg.
A visit to the landfill was cut from the schedule because of the weather. The commissioners are expected to visit the landfill at a later date.
“It’s good for us to come out and see these places. Even if we have been here before, it’s important to actually see them,” said Commissioner Carol McCall.
“This was a great learning opportunity and a good way to see the needs of the county first hand,” added Gibson, who is serving his first term as a commissioner.