Plan would bring CareSouth jobs to Society Hill

By Bobby Bryant, Editor,

Society Hill and CareSouth are working on a plan that would add about 50 jobs and a new business to the Darlington County town of 560 people as well as bring perhaps $500,000 in renovations to a Main Street “eyesore.”

Hartsville-headquartered CareSouth wants to turn the former St. David’s Academy into an administrative office for about 50 employees, says Society Hill Mayor Tommy Bradshaw. Renovations likely would cost $500,000 or more, and the resulting office would be the town’s biggest employer, Bradshaw says.

“This presents a great opportunity,” says Bradshaw. “This would be helping the town in multiple ways. … It would be a win-win situation for us and (CareSouth).”

The building, which Bradshaw describes as an “eyesore” of broken windows that violates the town’s own property codes, is a former school that was shut down in the 1980s. The building is not historic, Bradshaw says, but the grounds are.

The original St. David’s Academy was a famed school built in the 1700s; new versions of it have been built at the site for more than 200 years as old versions were lost to fires and the like. The building now standing at the site was put up in the 1950s, Bradshaw says.

The Darlington County School District deeded the property to the town years ago, the mayor says, but the town does not have the power to sell the property, he says. That leads to the snag that Bradshaw is trying to resolve. Facing major renovation costs, CareSouth wants the property deeded to the company for a small fee; the school district would have to approve that deal.

The mayor already is seeking a meeting with county Education Superintendent Tim Newman. “I’m going to try to sell that to them,” Bradshaw says.

The mayor and CareSouth have been in contact about the St. David’s Academy property since early in the year.

“We remain very interested” in the property, Douglas told council, but he emphasized that CareSouth would need to have title to the property before proceeding. Council authorized Bradshaw to work with the school district.

Bradshaw hopes he can make arrangements with the school district for the deed transfer within six months or so. This plan is critical for the growth of Society Hill, he says.

If CareSouth does turn the former school building into an administrative office for 50 or so people, it would instantly become the town’s largest employer, Bradshaw says. And other businesses, like restaurants, might follow CareSouth to Society Hill, the mayor says.

As it stands now, the town can’t use the St. David’s Academy building for anything, Bradshaw says. “Main Street, center of town, beautiful site,” but the building itself isn’t serving any purpose. “If this (plan) fails, then the town can’t ever do anything with it.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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