ROCK HILL — Supporters of the Emmett Scott Recreation Center say Rock Hill city leaders have been moving too slowly to install air conditioning in the centers gym since the the City Council discussed the issue in August.
City officials say theyve been looking into the cost of putting air conditioning in the gym since then but are waiting for a proposal from a company that assessed the gymnasium in September.
Based on estimates from the company, BASF, the city estimates that it will cost a minimum of $180,000 to install air conditioning, seal structural holes and insulate the gyms walls, ceiling and floors.
A proposal from BASF for the actual work at Emmett Scott is likely to come in November, said Steven Gibson, Rock Hills management and budget director.
After that, it will be up to the council to revisit the issue.
In August, supporters told the council they didnt want to see the gym demolished and feared the city was considering that option.
John Taylor, Rock Hills Parks, Recreation and Tourism operations supervisor, said he hesitates to say never but there is no grand plan among city officials to demolish any part of the recreation center.
Mayor Doug Echols told supporters in August that the gyms historical signficance has always been taken into consideration just like any other historical, city-owned building.
Local pastor Donald Trent said the gym is a historical landmark in Rock Hill.
I do not understand what the problem is, he said. The city has always given us the answer, Were working on it. But we still havent seen any results.
Unlike Rock Hills four other city-owned recreation centers, Emmett Scotts gym does not have air conditioning.
The gym was part of Emmett Scott High School, a segregated black high school open from 1952 until the 1970s. The city has operated the gym as a recreation center since the high schools closing because of state-mandated racial integration.
Gym supporters, such as Zelma Johnson from Rock Hill, say the recreation center is important for local children who need a safe environment and something constructive to do after school and in the summer.
The center has regular fundraisers, she said, to support of programming for the community which includes activities for people of all ages.
Installing air conditioning, however, carries too hefty of a price tag for fundraisers alone to support, Johnson said.
The gym and recreation center are city-owned and Johnson said the city should be involved in paying for the air conditioning.
Johnson, whose 13-year-old daughter uses the gym, said she worries about her childs and other peoples safety in the hot, stuffy gym.
During summer months, it seems like the building is hotter than it already is outside, Johnson said.
It really drains your energy.
Johnson said she realizes the city is waiting for a proposal from BASF but believes something could have been done before now, considering every other city-owned recreation center has air conditioning.
While were going back and forth about it, the children are still suffering in the gym.
Gibson said the citys consideration to install air conditioning is making progress.
One cost-effective option which might be in BASFs proposal next month, Gibson said, is for the company to reduce the initial installation cost and recoup that money later with an agreement that the city will share with BASF 50 percent of future energy savings at Emmett Scott.
This option is attractive, he said, because any improvements to the recreation center would need to come from the citys general fund money.
Hospitality tax money the city can use to upgrade and build parks, athletic facilities and infrastructure that supports tourism cannot be tapped for improvements to Emmett Scott, Gibson said.
Local pastor C.T. Kirk, a member of the citys Facilities Advisory Board for Emmett Scott, said the city has prioritized tourism facilities in Rock Hill and thats the reason air conditioning has not been put in the gym yet.
Emmett Scott is for community use, Kirk said, and doesnt generate hospitality tax or other revenue for the city so elected officials are not prioritizing the installation of air conditioning.
He said he hopes BASFs proposal will be accepted by the council and work will begin in the gym.
Anna Douglas 803-329-4068