Acknowledge death, schedule the funeral
Sunday, June 29, 2014 1:01 AM
Perhaps it is time Greenwood County officials take a lesson from Lander University.
In case you have not noticed, Coleman Hall is coming down. Coleman is Lander’s former student dorm that has stood vacant and downright ugly for some years now. There was a time when it seemed someone might buy the building and renovate it. That did not come to fruition. Lander is keeping the property on which the dorm stood, but the building is coming down. It long ago served its purpose, it has nothing left to offer the university or, it seems, anyone else. And so, bit by bit a crew is taking it down.
Since late 2009, the county’s civic center building has been shut down. Council opted to shutter the facility as it was losing millions and essentially bringing in nothing. Long gone were the days when the building was filled with people attending concerts. The facility was being used so infrequently for events that drew minimal occupancy that it made no economic sense to keep the building operational. Since then, however, little has been done with the property.
Finally, council could no longer ignore the elephant in the room. Actually, it has been more like an albatross around the county’s neck. A decision was made to appoint a committee to study what should be done with the building, if anything, and bring its findings to council. This spring, that committee issued its report, finding what many suspected it would: The civic center building should not be retrofitted to provide a similar venue. But the committee did more than simply report that short-term finding. It also advised council that a more comprehensive study needed to be performed, this one involving a look at all the county’s existing facilities with an eye toward the future and what those needs might be down the road. The comprehensive facilities study, the committee said, should lead to a master plan put into motion by the county. The recommendation included leaving room for a reincarnation of sorts for the civic center building itself, such as it being modified to serve some other purpose than as a civic center-like venue. One possibility included using the building as additional county office space, an idea we did not then and do not now find appealing as it would scatter county offices too far apart.
Last week, council learned the price tag for the facilities study would tap out at about $60,000. To some, that might sound like too much money, but it still sounds like a decent investment for the long haul. Such long-range studies are probably better left to experts in that field and do not belong in the lap of a sitting county council or even the county manager himself.
That said, however, we do find ourselves squarely in one county councilman’s court. Chuck Moates has been advocating all the while for the civic center’s demolition. In fact, last week he said a motion needed to be made to do as much. When told he could offer such a motion at a future meeting, Moates had an impassioned reply: “I may damn well do it.”
And that’s where the lesson from Lander comes into play. No one has come knocking on county manager Toby Chappell’s door with an offer to buy the building, much less the whole property. It is not destined to be retrofitted into a facility for concerts and other large-crowd events. It is, however, an eyesore. The county should conduct a needs assessment. It is certainly free to follow or alter the study’s findings. It is even free to shelve the part of the study that so concerned councilman Steve Brown. That aspect would delve into projecting future personnel needs of the county and Brown, understandably, expressed concern about an outside group exercising influence in that realm of county business.
As for the building itself, however, the time has come to bury the dead.