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Sweetwater gym planning underway

There may be plenty of fields for outdoor sports in McDuffie County, but as of now, there is no open public facility for indoor sports. That will soon change, though.

The McDuffie County Commission, on Aug. 17, will hear a proposal from the Facility Group - a company that designs and implements the construction of buildings - about the Sweetwater community center/gymnasium that has been in the planning stages for several years.

"I'm sure they've done preliminary conceptual drawings and things like that which we'll get to look at on the 17th," said County Manager Don Norton. Also, the bats and bees have been eradicated from the Dearing Gym, leaving it ready for renovation which includes repairing the floor and updating the restrooms.

"I'm not quite sure how long it will take, but I think we will see that facility get renovated and reopened for use and be a pretty nice facility, actually," Mr. Norton said. "There's nothing real fancy about it, but it's to take a pretty nice old building and make it more usable."

For the Sweetwater project, no dates have been set for completion of the double gymnasium.

Once the commission decides on the consulting firm, drawing up plans could take four months and construction around nine months, according to Recreation Department Director Bob Howard.

So the project is still more than a year away from completion.

According to Mr. Howard, the plan for the facility will include input from the Recreation Board as well as the public. The consultants chosen to plan the facility will incorporate the ideas and needs that are presented to them. Currently the gym will include the equipment and space necessary for basketball, volleyball, badminton, gymnastics, a community center and possibly a swimming pool.

Once completed, the offices of the recreation department will be housed in the facility.

"We're going to try to put everything centrally located right here," Mr. Howard said of Sweetwater Park.

With the new gym in place, Mr. Howard said the basketball program could increase in scope and participation because school facilities will not need to be used for games and practices as often.

The Dearing gym, which is currently owned by the school system and operated by the recreation department, could then be open for public use year-round. During the winter months, the gym is used for recreation league basketball games and practices.

The bid given by a local contractor for repairing the gym is more than a year old and possibly outdated.

The County Commission is considering taking other bids using a renovation plan consistent with the current bid.

But another possibility surfaced in the past week. Commission Chairman Charlie Newton proposed during Wednesday's commission meeting to spend just enough money to make the facility useful for the next year.

In the meantime, the of Dearing would apply a Community Development Block Grant to totally remodel the building.

"If they get that, then can do a lot of things down there," Mr. Newton said. "If they don't get it we'll ahead and spend the $75,000 we're talking about to do repairs to make it - not to perfect - but make it a whole lot nicer than it is now. If get the $500,000 grant, we'll make it really nice."

The Dearing City Council still needs to approve the plan before steps can be taken implement it.

UP NEXT McDuffie County Commissioners will meet with represen\tatives from the Facility Group on Aug. 17



Web posted on Thursday, August 5, 2004


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