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Funds delivered for new Neyles Community Center | News | The Press and Standard

by | January 12, 2017 5:00 am

Last Updated: January 11, 2017 at 12:15 pm

By GEORGE SALSBERRY
gsalsberry@lowcountry.com
Neyles is the first step in S.C. Sen. Margie Bright-Matthews’ plan to improve the quality of life in Colleton County’s smaller communities.
On Jan. 3, Bright-Matthews and representatives of the Neyles Community Center’s governing body made a special visit to the Colleton County Council session.
Bright-Matthews brought along a massive, ceremonial check. It represented the state legislature’s allocation of $400,000 in South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism funds earmarked for Neyles.
The funds will be used to construct a new Neyles Community Center and improve and expand the recreational facilities for the community. She envisions a community center that could become home to after-school programs for the community’s children and a location for senior citizen activities during the day.
Bright-Matthews said she approached the members of the state Senate’s Finance Committee seeking funds for the project. She said that she initially asked for a $750,000 allocation, expecting the Finance Committee to offer less.
Bright-Matthews added that she also wrote the members of the South Carolina House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee for a similar allocation and enlisted the aid of S.C. Rep. Robert Brown, D-Hollywood, who made the funding request to Ways and Means. We tag-teamed them to make sure it got done,” Bright-Matthews explained.
Bright-Matthews said she worked with the members of the Neyles Community Center Board in putting together the proposal, especially Board Chairperson Mark Pinckney and board members Audrey Brown and Roosevelt Chaplin.
The funds are earmarked for the Neyles Community Center project and do not require a local match, she said. “That is the beauty of it.”
The existing community center has fallen into disrepair and is uninhabitable, according to Bright Matthews. But, Bright-Matthews said, the Neyles Community Center was “a big pillar in the community at one time.”
The Neyles proposal is just the first in Bright-Matthews’ vision to enhance the recreational opportunities throughout the county. Neyles is first, she said, because “this is where I grew up. It is dear to my heart.”
With the funding secured, Bright-Matthews said, it is up to the members of the Neyles Community Center organization and the county to work on the design work and the construction. “It will be like any other county project.” All the plans, she added, will have to be approved by the state.
“The goal is to start at Neyles,” she explained, but eventually she wants to go after state funds “for all of these communities in Colleton County, those areas about 15-20 miles from the Colleton County Recreation Center. I would like to methodically go around the county. My next area would be the Green Pond, Catholic Hill and Ritter area. To try to get full fledged recreational facilities.”
Then her efforts would move to the Ruffin area, to Islandton, to Cottageville.
“Residents in those areas don’t get recreational opportunities,” she explained, “because they can’t get to the recreational center.”
When it comes to recreation, she said, the county “just kept putting the money into Walterboro area.”
The county’s move to enhance and improve the Recreation Center, the move to purchase and operate the Dogwood Hills Golf Course, she said, “does nothing for the taxpaying citizens in Cottageville and Ruffin. That’s not fair.”
Focusing on the Walterboro area recreation opportunities, she said, ignores the needs of the young people in other areas of the county.  “If we really want to get them off the streets, keep them busy and active, we have to put some emphasis in giving those people, those taxpaying citizens, a recreational avenue in outlying areas of Colleton County. Colleton County is not just Walterboro.”
The plan to expand recreational opportunities into other communities of the county, she said, would have economic development and community development benefits.
When people come here thinking about bringing industry or settling here, the fact that those outlying  areas have limited recreational offers can be a deterrent, she said. “We have to make sure that each community is a place someone would feel comfortable staying.
“I don’t like the fact that a lot of folks work here and live in Summerville,” Bright-Matthews said. “We need to stop that.”
To get them to reside in the county, she said, “We need to look at the quality of life, we need to increase the quality of life.”
Bright-Matthews said that the county focusing its attention on the recreational facilities in the Walterboro area is not her only concern. She is concerned that the county’s recreational efforts seem to be “only concentrated on baseball.”
“I would like to see us evolve to going into some other areas,” Bright-Matthews said. “We live too close to water for us to not have fully operational facilities throughout the county, especially as it relates to swimming.”
“I know we can do it. It is an untapped area and we need to get on with it.”

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