Sometime, someway, Maxton town officials came to a conclusion that Townsend Middle School’s old gym would be theirs. And, although that has not happened, that town’s Board of Commissioners, led by Mayor Gladys Dean, doesn’t seem willing to take no for an answer — and has pledged to continue the pursuit.
Earlier this week Dean updated the town board on efforts to get ownership of the gym, including sending a letter to schools Superintendent Johnny Hunt, and Dean’s appearance before the Board of Education on Sept. 6. But neither effort has kicked the ball very far down the road.
Dean said that as of Tuesday, Hunt had yet to receive the letter, and because the Maxton mayor appeared before the school board during a public forum, and not as part of the agenda, school board members were prohibited by policy from engaging in conversation.
Dean said she would return to the October meeting of the school board, and this time plans to be listed on the agenda. Presumably there will be some discussion that night.
Maxton officials say they have been under the belief the Townsend gym would be deeded to them for more than a decade, which probably explains the confusion. If the deal was struck so long ago, it was done with a different schools superintendent and a different school board — and if a signed agreement exists, it hasn’t been produced.
School officials say that they need to hold onto the old gym to use as a storage facility.
Maxton town officials’ plans are loftier: They would like to turn the gym into a recreation center, a place where local youths could gather for exercise and fun — and to avoid the pitfalls that seem to lurk around every street corner in this county.
If the tie-breaker is how the gym, which was constructed with taxpayer money, could best serve the public, then the decision should be easy. It would be a recreation center.
It seems to us that the best approach now would be for Maxton town officials to huddle with school administrators in advance of the school board meeting, and for the administration to be prepared to make a recommendation to the full board. Brenda Fairley-Ferebee, the school board member who represents Maxton, should be a part of those conversations.
This decision will ultimately be made by the county Board of Commissioners, but the board is almost certain to follow the recommendation of Hunt and the school board. Perhaps there is room in the gym for storage and recreation — the kind of compromise that sitting around a table and talking can produce.