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Howard Park plan: 2 courts possible, upkeep split evenly between Georgetown, schools

Howard Center

A collaboration between Georgetown County, the city of Georgetown and the Georgetown County School District could bring a park with a basketball court near the Howard Center in Georgetown's West End. Mike Woodel/Staff

GEORGETOWN — A revised plan for a park near Howard Center in the West End calls for the city and Georgetown County School District to evenly split maintenance and operation costs.

The project would be a collaboration between the city, school district and county. The city and county would absorb construction costs while day-to-day costs would fall to the district and city. A price tag has not been announced.

A conceptual rendering features a basketball court, two playgrounds and a large, oval-shaped lawn surrounded by a walkway and tricycle track.

After four school board members entered the conversation surrounding plans for Howard Park, the portion of maintenance costs on the project was revised to 50-50 instead of having the school district pay a larger share. The plan was well-received by multiple board members on Jan. 17, including West End resident Randy Walker.

"I'm not being biased because this is my neighborhood, but I see a lot of ladies walking kids through the street around that community that would probably love to have a park to go and sit down, watch them play on the swings, whatever," Walker said.

The revised plan also leaves open the possibility of building two basketball courts in the park instead of one.

"Oftentimes, older, taller youth take up one court and then you'll have smaller, younger children who are participating on the other," District Superintendent Keith Price said.

Board member Keith Moore cautioned against the park being a privilege for students in the district's alternative education program. Students in the program take classes next to the proposed park site in a building shared with the district's adult education program.

Price said that alternative education students are allowed outside during the day, though they are currently limited to a green space with "nothing to do there but to go out and talk." Moore, touching on his time working with a general sessions court, noted that students who spend time in the program should not want to come back.

"My instincts tell me that (if) my kids do something wrong, that I'm not going to reward them so much," Moore said. "I want them to not have to end up back in Howard."

Walker said that the West End community should not be punished for mistakes made by students in the alternative program by missing out on the park.

"Those kids shouldn't be rewarded to go outside if they got something going on, but we shouldn't punish the community and not want to do it because of that," Walker said.

Under the plan considered Jan. 17, Georgetown County would only pay an unspecified portion of the park's construction costs. Price said that construction costs for the project are yet to be calculated.

The city of Georgetown would cover the remaining balance of construction costs. They would also provide maintenance staff and afterhours security, pay up to $68,750 for the park's design and pay half of annual maintenance and operation costs — about $19,000.

The district's share of the project would be to approve the land's use, pay half of annual maintenance and operation costs and open the park to the public on non-school days. Under the revised plan, the district would also ensure the courts are built away from the Howard Center building to allow access to nearby storage.

No portion of construction costs will fall to the district unless the board decides to dedicate funds toward basketball courts.

As planned, the park would not be accessible after daylight, and there are no plans to include lighting or plumbing.

The district could also decide to construct only the park and playground portion or only the basketball courts. The latter option would relieve the district of maintenance costs. They could ultimately decide to construct neither, as well.

The Howard Park project will come before the board for a vote on Feb. 7.

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Mike Woodel reports on Georgetown County for The Post and Courier. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2018 and previously worked for newspapers in Montana and South Dakota.