Grant to fund demo of old Blackville school

  • The former Blackville Middle School building has been vacant for nearly 20 years.

The Town of Blackville reinstalled three council members and then got an early Christmas gift in the form of a Community Development Block Grant.

Council members Steven Jowers, Alan Harrison and Fred Orr each took the oath of office administered by Mayor Michael Beasley during the Nov. 20 meeting held at the Blackville Community Center.

Jowers, Harrison and Orr were unopposed in their bid for re-election for four-year terms on council.

Following the ceremonies Beasley announced the town has been approved for a $226,655 grant from the South Carolina Department of Commerce. The money will be used to demolish the former Blackville Middle School.

“I’m ecstatic we’ve received this grant,” said Beasley. “Many residents agree (the old building) is an eyesore. The town and the schools could not do it but, with the grant, it will be a reality.”

The former school building is located just in front of the current Blackville-Hilda High School. The structure has been vacant for years and demolition plans have been hindered by the cost of asbestos removal.

Beasley said once the building is removed, the grant includes funding for landscaping. “It has to be a green space for at least five years before it can be redeveloped,” he said. “I think it will be a great area for development of a park.”

Beasley noted that buildings next to the post office have been demolished and “grass is greening up now.”

“We want to continue doing these types of projects,” he said.

Councilman Fred Orr said in response to some questions about the code enforcement that these projects could lead to economic development. “When prospects see dilapidated buildings, they keep driving,” he said. “If they see them being torn down and green space, they may consider Blackville for new business.

“It is a process that will take longer than some think it should be, but we are on the right track,” he said.

Beasley said the second of the town’s 1 percent capital sales tax projects is $500,000 for demolition of dilapidated properties.

Additionally, there are plans to hire a code enforcement officer to handle the paperwork and process necessary to force property owners to either clean up their properties or be billed by the town for clean-up. Currently the police department is handling code enforcement but the council indicated that the job really needs to be handled separately.

Recognition

The Blackville Music and Arts Festival committee made two presentations during the meeting.

Terrance Washington presented Councilman Alan Harrison with a $100 check for the recreation department in recognition of his support for the festival and the recreation department.

He then presented Mayor Beasley with two paintings for his support of the Music and Arts Festival.

In other business the council:

• Approved $25 gift cards for each of the 13 volunteer coaches of the Recreation Department. Mayor Beasley said it is coming out of the Recreation Department budget and within their means.

• Was reminded of a Solarize South Carolina community meeting on Thursday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. The community is invited to attend the presentation at the Blackville Community Center. The presentation is to include discussion of landowners providing property for development of solar farms.

• Noted the Town of Blackville’s Christmas parade is at 11 a.m. on Dec. 9, and the Tree Lighting/Soup & Singing is Dec. 10 at 5 p.m.

• Learned that the Community Development Corporation is holding a fundraising “Holiday Gala” event at Barnwell State Park on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.

• Learned that the next Community Watch meeting will be to attend the Barnwell County Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 12.

• The mayor and each council person thanked those in attendance for participating in the council meeting.