FORT MILL — The Fort Mill Care Center needs a new home, and its leaders are hoping the community can assist in the search.
By July 1, the Fort Mill school district, which owns the Banks Street property where the Care Center is located, is moving all district programs and services out of the building and into the former district office to cut utility costs. The district, which has allowed the Care Center to operate in the building rent- and utility-free, will close the building as soon as the Care Center can find a new home.
The cost savings to the district will be an estimated $225,000, said board chairman Patrick White.
Eventually, the school district plans to sell the building or possibly trade it for another piece of property that the district could use.
The Care Center created a relocation committee in January to lead the hunt for a new building when leaders learned that the district was considering selling the building. Last time the Care Center searched for a new property, more than a decade ago, it took a year to find their current spot, said director Carol Higgins.
The Care Center needs to find a new building that is at least 7,000 square feet, near the center of town, she said, to be close to clients.
The Care Center helps hundreds of people a month by providing food and assistance with utilities. In January, they distributed 28,933 pounds of food, serving more than 900 people. They gave out more than $16,000 in assistance for utilities and more than $3,000 to help pay for prescription medication.
Despite concerns over the move, Higgins is grateful for the 14 years that the school district has allowed the Care Center to operate from the Banks Street facility, free of rent and utility costs.
“I can’t fault them. They want to close the building. The maintenance here is terrible. I don’t blame the school district. The only complaint is they haven’t let us know what’s going on,” Higgins said. “We’ve been hearing rumors for years, and they haven’t let us know what’s going on. We’re not bitter about it, we just need information.”
District officials said that they’ve done the best they could to keep Care Center officials informed as they made decisions about the building. They only made the decision to move the remaining district programs and employees out of the Banks Street facility in recent months, said White, and the Care Center was notified of that decision.
Higgins is worried about what the cost of rent and utilities will do to the Care Center’s bottom line. Any property the Care Center moves to will likely charge both, she said, which will cut into the Care Center’s ability to help clients.
Not finding a new home for the Care Center is just not an option, she said.
“We prefer not to think in those terms,” Higgins said. “I can’t imagine. That’s our worst nightmare.”
The district offered Higgins the opportunity to move into the cafeteria on the Banks Street property, which would disassociate the Care Center from the rest of the building’s electric system and allow Care Center officials to pay their own electric bill, while the district still realizes the cost savings it seeks.
But that could be costly and would be temporary, Higgins said.
In the meantime, White said, the Care Center won’t be pushed out the doors as soon as the district employees exit the building.
“No one is going to kick them to the curb with boxes of food onto Banks Street because we’ve locked the door,” he said. “It would be crazy to not allow them to stay if they haven’t been able to find something, but we want them to be proactive and make a good-faith effort.”