Annex the Raceway? No; Lease the old library? Yes
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
The questions outnumbered the answers on a couple of issues taken up by Darlington City Council last week. After discussing it in executive session, the city tabled some type of contract or plan involving annexation and the Darlington Raceway. (The agenda item read: “Contract Annexation Agreement Darlington Raceway, Paving Contract City Streets.”) But beyond indicating that the matter has been withdrawn, council gave no hint of what the plan would have done – and members were not allowed to, since the issue was taken up under privilege of executive session. It’s possible the issue involved annexation of small tracts of land surrounding a large site the city bought as the basis of a recreation center; that big site is near the track. Raceway President Kerry Tharp did not return a phone call about the matter. During the same session Nov. 10 – which marked council’s return to City Hall after months of meeting at Harmon Baldwin Gym so the public could attend and everyone could have room to “social distance” – the council also gave final approval to a plan that will let Darlington County lease the old, vacant Carnegie Library on North Main Street from the city for a token fee for 50 years. But county officials have not yet been willing to reveal their plans for the property, built in 1920, one of many libraries financed by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. And because the county has not talked, city officials have felt that they can’t talk yet, either. Even as City Council members gave the lease plan its second and final OK, they avoided the issue of what the county might use the building for. But council did stipulate that the county will be responsible for all maintenance and renovation costs, and that the city would be able to use the building for meetings after normal business hours. “They’re going to have something in that facility that’s not necessarily going to be conducive to having it available just for meetings,” City Manager Howard Garland told council. “It would be available possibly in the evenings for meetings, but not necessarily during the daytime. … They have a specific use plan for the building during daylight business hours.” “I think we all assume they’re going to be using it 8 to 5,” councilman Bryant Gardner said. In other business: — Council was told that the Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce’s Fright Fest on Halloween was successful, drawing a crowd of about 5,000 people over five hours. “We had people coming and going all day long, so the crowds were not that big,” chamber representative Nancy Matthews said. She also said the chamber this year was leaning toward a New Year’s Eve event along the lines of a Mayor’s Masquerade Ball rather than a Toast of Darlington. “We noticed that Darlington doesn’t have anything for adults on New Year’s Eve.” — Council agreed to donate $5,000 to the Darlington Veterans Memorial, half of what the city gave last year. Gardner said he wanted to support the project, but said the city needed to protect its hospitality fund for future expenses and “projects we know we have coming down the pipeline.” Other council members also were reluctant to match the $10,000 the city donated to the memorial last year.