The former Dearing Elementary School Gym may be getting a $65,000 facelift, according to McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton. Original estimates to fully refurbish the building were near $750,000.
The current plans are to repair the restrooms, windows, roof, floor, wiring and to make the building handicap accessible. Also slated is removal of bats and bees from the building which may be an additional cost of about $6,000.
The process began with a request from people in Dearing who had sentimental value for the gym.
"I had a phone call from some folks down in Dearing and from the Dearing City Council that wanted to restore the old Dearing Gym because they went to school down there and that type of thing," Mr. Newton said.
The McDuffie County Board of Education owns the gym, but the county commission was given a 50 year lease for the building.
"With the lease, they can make improvements to that particular facility," said McDuffie County School Facilities Manager Jim Franklin.
The gym is currently managed by the Thomson-McDuffie County Recreation Department. Children's basketball league games are held at the gym during basketball season, but citizens can arrange to use the gym during the off-season.
According to Dr. Franklin, the Board of Education currently has no use for the building which resulted in the long lease period. The lease agreement does include a clause that would allow the school system to retrieve the facility if it was needed for school purposes.
Repairing the gym may be costly, but it is worth it to Mr. Newton. He is glad a reasonable bid was received because of the benefits the gym will give McDuffie County residents.
"You're looking at $70,000 to $75,000, but if we can stay in that range and have the gym a useful building for the next 10 years and also preserve it, then I think it's pretty positive," he said.
The contractor has received a tentative go-ahead from the fire marshal to begin. But the repairs won't start immediately.
"We don't have the sales tax money coming in yet to do it anyway," Mr. Newton said. "But it looks like it's fairly positive for being able to do that, but we're still several months away."
Mr. Newton also indicated that the county may be interested in purchasing the building from the school system in the future.
"I'm sure the board would consider that," Dr. Franklin said. "But no such proposals have been made."