LAURINBURG — Some of the first plans and drawings for the multi-generational center were shown during the Parks and Recreation Advisory Council meeting on Tuesday, but in order to be built a referendum must be passed by voters.
For years there has been talk about bringing a recreation center to Laurinburg, complete with a gym and pool, but until now nothing has ever been done. Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Graham has been working to get plans to build one at the James Morgan Complex — and the center wouldn’t just have a pool and a gym but also multi-use space, making it a place for everyone no matter their age.
The expected multi-million dollar facility is still very early in the planning but architects from Oakley Collier came to give the first look at what the center could be. The example shown featured a gym with two basketball courts, indoor pool, elevated walking track, youth game center, arts and craft rooms, multipurpose room, administration suites, classrooms, and water feature outside with slides and a pool.
The architects did say the facility could be done in chunks as the money came along, such as only doing one basketball court for the time or waiting to do the outside of the building, as long as they had a plan set.
However, in order to build and operate the facility there has to be money to pay for it. Earlier in the month, the county commissioners voted to allow a referendum on the ballot that will add a quarter-cent to the sales tax. Killing the referendum would essentially kill multi-generational center.
The tax vote will be on the second page of the ballot and will be the seventh question. The question will not say anything about the recreation center and will only ask for the voters to give their consent to allow the sales tax to rise. Not only would the referendum allow for the center to be built but also to continue running it after its built.
The referendum will not increase property-tax but would raise the sales tax which is everything from gas to groceries and is paid by everyone who shops in the county not just residents.
“On a $100 it would cost an extra quarter,” said County Manager Kevin Patterson.
Graham believes that building the facility will not only benefit the residents of Scotland County but also help the economic development in the county.
“Having a center like this in Scotland County, we’re now a leader,” said Graham. “Robeson County doesn’t have anything that nice, Moore County is currently in the process of building one. So our surrounding communities are going to be attracted to this facility — they’re going to be attracted to the potential water features, so we’re now a leader and an industry.”
The advisory council discussed ways to help the public understand what the sales tax increase would be going to, and Graham explained that it was one of the reasons for getting the drawings of the building.
“We’ve been talking about a mythical creature over the past several years,” Graham said. “You hear about it but you never see it. We’re talking about the Loch Ness Monster here in a Parks and Recreation format.”
For County Commissioner Guy McCook, he believed that now was the time to go forward with the project and try and get it passed.
“This has got to be a community-wide project,” McCook said. “This is not just a parks and rec project.”
The board questioned when the center would be complete if the referendum was passed, which Patterson said the earliest would be in May of 2020, because it takes six months for the tax to be put in place and seeing if it made as much money as speculated — then allowing 18 to 24 months to complete construction.
Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171 or at [email protected]