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New Bethune Rec Center opens its doors

Posted: December 27, 2012 5:35 p.m.
Updated: December 28, 2012 5:00 a.m.
Michael Ulmer/C-I

A new recreation center in the town of Bethune is up and running, according to Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter.

The facility’s opening experienced delays during the past several months after problems sprang up involving the project’s first contractor, but Carpenter said construction wrapped up near the end of November.

He described the facility, located at 109 College St., as a “great resource” for families, churches and civic groups that will help build the community.

“I think it’ll be very beneficial,” Carpenter said. “It certainly has the potential to provide them with a facility where they can not only take part of (county) recreation programs, but they can help us create new programs that aren’t currently there.”

Kershaw County Recreation Department Director James Davis said the building will be used to host programs for all ages, but particularly for kids and the elderly. He said residents looking to use the facility will need to contact the recreation department and that it will be used as a community center for recreation events, family reunions, church functions and similar activities.

“All of our programs and any of our activities offered by the rec department are open to the public, but you can have private events there as well,” Davis said. “We like all of our buildings to be secure and for safety reasons, we like to schedule it and have a year-round itinerary.”

Davis said he felt the center, which can hold approximately 175 to 200 people, will likely be most active during the summer months. The rec department is also hoping to work with the community to develop a year-round walking program and use the center as an indoor walking facility during inclement weather.

Carpenter said the county doesn’t currently have plans for any kind of “grand opening,” but was pleased construction had finally been completed. 

“No one has asked for that at this point. I think people are just ready to have it open and running,” Carpenter said, referring to any plans for a special unveiling. “We just wanted to get it open as soon as we could. We didn’t want to wait for anything to slow it down at this point.”

He noted that it took “quite awhile” to get the project completed.

“It’s one less thing hanging over our heads and one more promise that’s been made that we’re now able to say that we’ve kept,” Carpenter said.

The original Bethune recreation building -- which had been in use since the 1930s -- was destroyed by an arsonist in Nov. 2008. Plans to complete the new building were stalled in Dec. 2011 after the county was forced to recoup a bond issued as part of the construction project bid.

“The contractor felt he could finish it, but at the point we were at, we just felt that in order to be assured that it would be completed in the fashion that we needed it to be, we needed to go after the bond,” Carpenter said.

In March, Kershaw County Attorney Ken DuBose said a consultant from Atlanta was hired to help formulate a plan to finish the project. DuBose indicated that the consulting firm worked with architects at the site to complete construction in a timely fashion.

Assistant County Administrator Allen Trapp said in August that county officials were working with a surety bond company to try to transition to a new contractor after concluding that the first contractor could not complete the facility in a timely manner.

“We basically told the surety company that this wasn’t working,” Trapp said at the time, describing the construction pace as “poking along” under the first contractor. “We needed the project completed and at the pace it was going, it wasn’t workable for us.”

Carpenter explained that while construction had concluded, legal issues surrounding the site’s completion were ongoing.

“There are still some loose ends legally that we’ve got to wrap up, but our number one goal was to get it opened to the public,” he said. “That is what we’ve been focusing on, getting the building finished. Then after it’s done, we can go and take care of what we needed to do legally.”

Kershaw County Council Chairman Gene Wise said the facility will be an asset to the community and believes the county will help promote and organize recreation programs in the area.

“I think that it will be the center of the town,” Wise said. “It’s a multi-functional facility and I think the residents of Bethune will be able to do a lot with it.”

For more information about the Bethune Recreation Center, call the Kershaw County Recreation Department at 425-6009.

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