PLAIN VIEW — Members of the Plain View community in northern Sampson County want to offer recreational opportunities that will keep residents in this county rather than traveling to Dunn — and they want the public’s input along the way.
The Plain View Community Coalition will be holding a community meeting to discuss options for the old Plain View Elementary School at 7 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 20, at the adjacent community center on U.S. 421. Bids for demolition and abatement of building will be discussed, as will plans for future property development.
“We are still hopeful there can be a recreational opportunity that comes to that property,” Kim Schmidlin said. “Prior to the new board coming on in 2011, that gym had fallen into disrepair, there was no 501 (c)(3) designation (for the Plain View Community Coalition) and the lights were turned off. The new board got that status and did fundraisers to maintain the gym, and upgrade the lighting and heating.”
Schmidlin, who is a member of the Sampson County Board of Education, is part of the effort in getting the word out about the meeting that is being spearheaded by the coalition, including her husband Jim and David Core.
Community involvement in the decisions about the old school are needed, she said, as it has been identified as the main obstacle in the pursuit for a new recreational venue in the northern end of Sampson.
“It’s not an asset and it’s become a dangerous place,” Schmidlin remarked. “We do have a price on abatement. The whole property is not a loss. The gym (current community center) is up to par. The thing that has to be dealt with is the old (school) building.”
In recent years, Plain View Community Coalition members approached the Sampson Board of Commissioners requesting funds — most recently for $25,000 in 2012 — to make improvements to the old elementary school site, with the ultimate goal that the facility be a haven for recreational activities for young and old alike. Those requests went unfunded, but fundraisers and community support have breathed new life into the property.
However, the matter is at a crossroads, with a dilapidated building on the property.
In 2002, the county conveyed the old school to the coalition — “a community group organized for the purpose of preservation of the school’s architectural, archaeological, artistic, cultural and historic significance” — The deed by which that was accomplished requested no payment, but restricted the coalition from changing the structure in appearance.
Jay Parsons, then-vice president of the Plain View Coalition, told county commissioners in 2012 that the coalition “determined that the property is no longer sustainable for preservation or conservation per the original deed.” He asked that restrictions be removed from the deed to allow the coalition to move forward with “public and private funding opportunities” to utilize the site in the best way possible for the community.
“The only way for us to do anything on that property is to remove those restrictions,” he said, noting the coalition wanted to see a park, walking trail and a place for seniors among the amenities at the site. “Our mission is to have the property salvaged out as much as we can, try to go green as much as we can and keep it out of the landfill.”
The restrictions were actually removed two years before in 2010 when then-coalition president Ken Jackson said a dead end had been reached in their quest to produce something of substance for the community at the site of the old school. Group members said they had not been able to make significant renovations in the previous eight years.
While there were big plans to renovate the building and sizable community support, that support waned, the building deteriorated and renovations were that much more difficult, Jackson said at the time. He expressed a desire to alter the deteriorating building, making it necessary for the county to remove the restrictions from the current deed.
Parsons would reiterate much of the same information two years later, saying he simply wanted to ensure that everyone had all the proper paperwork, a move he said was necessary in large part due to changes within the coalition.
The group was told by county officials that a new nonprofit had to be organized because the coalition was originally formed for the preservation of the school. They were encouraged by the Board of Commissioners to work expeditiously.
“The Plain View Coalition wants to serve everybody in that area of the county,” noted Parsons, citing the gym’s potential to hold events at the time. “The Recreation Department is losing the fees from people in that area who are going to Dunn. I would like to see our money stay in that part of the county.”
A few more years down the road, Schmidlin said the work of the group has paid off, but it’s time to take the next step.
“It’s been a big project just to get the gym back up to par. The gym will be maintained and the goal will be to develop the property into a park,” said Schmidlin, who noted a Plain View soccer league is hoped to follow. “We have basketball in the gym already. The park is fine. We hope to start the park with the addition of spring soccer.”
She said the Plain View Community Coalition also keeps in contact with County manager Ed Causey and that district’s commissioner Clark Wooten.
“We are still working with Mr. Causey and the county commissioners to have a county presence in the northern district,” said Schmidlin. “When the Parks and Recreation Department left, they took everything. It is self-sufficient now and we have a lot of participation in this county in Parks and Rec, so we did not want to move forward without receiving input from the public.”
She added, “Parks and Rec opportunities are limited as long as the (school) building is there.”
For more information about the meeting, please call: Jim Schmidlin at 910-263-1271 and David Core at 919-864-0579.
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