Wednesday, May 7, 2014
West End residents are angry over the loss of the basketball gym at the Howard Recreation Center at 1610 Hawkins St., in Georgetown, and what they see as complete disregard for the community that most benefits from the Howard center. They believe something vital to their young people is being taken from them.
Georgetown County, nonetheless, is moving ahead with its plans to replace the gymnasium with a multi-purpose room, ending all athletics programs at Howard.
Beth Goodall, county parks and recreation director, sees the change as a plus for the community. She admits, however, that there could have been better communication with the community.
Nevertheless, she seems determined to focus on the positive aspects of the $3 million renovation.
It is doubtful her enthusiasm will pacify the community.
We’re not surprised.
Although there have been four stories in The Georgetown Times since March 2013, they are somewhat vague as to what exactly would happen at the center.
We mentioned “Howard Auditorium renovations,” Howard Auditorium “getting new chairs,” “Seats being removed from Howard Auditorium” and, finally, in January 2014, the first story that actually mentions what will happen in two brief sentences, buried in the story:
“Other work is being done in the adjacent gym, to transform it into a multi-use area…Howard gymnasium closed last week.
“It will be renovated into a multi-purpose center that can be used for a wide range of activities…The gym is being transformed into a “multi-purpose” room.”
Should we have done a better job informing our readers what would happen at Howard?
But the onus for communication was not on us. It was on the county. The county answers to all its residents.
The West End community pays taxes and is a stakeholder in whatever decisions the county makes.
Conversely, as residents of this county, we should keep ourselves informed as to what our tax dollars are being spent on.
Ultimately, we all bear responsibility for the situation as it now stands.
However…we wonder why the county did not communicate with the city as to its plans to change the use of the site (City Councilman Rudolph Bradley claims not to have known.).
We wonder why the county did not have a “town meeting” style sit-down with the West End community that uses the Howard Recreation Center, especially since it would no longer be an athletic facility.
Instead, it would appear the county assumed the residents would read the paper or somehow simply “know” what the plans were.
It’s doubtful Goodall’s encouragement to “use the Beck Center facilities” will placate the community.
Although the Beck Center is only 1.1 miles from the Howard Center, it is about a 23-minute walk. That’s a long walk for kids, and across busy Highmarket Street.
We hope the residents of the West End do attend the next County Council meeting and voice their concerns.
We hope the County Council listens.
It is what we elected them to do.