The Concern Citizens of Columbia County bent the ear of county officials Thursday for a much-needed youth center in the Winfield area.
Oscar Taylor, chair of the organization, said the group focused on the western end of the county, discussed possible water lines for the Winfield area, zoning for mobile home sites and some improvements on the site if Eubank Blanchard Community Center, where the group would like to see a facility for area youth to be built.
"We need something out here for the kids," Taylor said. "We have lots of kids out here with nothing to do but get in trouble. We always talk about doing something for our kids. We need to show it."
Taylor said the center could be built on the 20-acre, county-owned land that now houses the community center at the corner of Cobbham and Ray Owens roads in Phinizy.
The problem, Taylor said, is the center is always locked and costs $125 an hour to use. Anyone using outdoor facilities, such as the playground or track, has no access to restrooms, he said.
Currently, youth in the Winfield area drive more than 20 miles to the Martinez-Evans area or to Patriots Park to use recreation facilities including ball fields or a pool.
"We need a recreation center out here," said area resident Lloyd DeFoor. "If nothing else some practice fields.
The group has pursued the idea for nearly two years and collected 350 signatures from the Leah and Winfield areas on a petition that was presented in February 2003 to Diane Ford, one of the district's representative on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.
Ford has already helped get the center a playground, walking track and trees to shade the lot, Taylor said.
She said she would use some of her commission discretionary money for improvements at the makeshift ballpark, including grading the field to level it out, put in a backdrop and buy some balls and bats. She also said there are plans to put in a volleyball court.
"I expect it to be less than $5,000," Ford said.
She said it would be difficult, however, to find funding right now to build a separate youth center.
"Our budget is tight, we just don't have the money," she said but added that it is a project that could be looked out down the road, perhaps as part of future 1-cent sales tax funding.
"She (Ford) showed some great interest in it," Taylor said. "I know we can't look for this to be done overnight, but we can start the planning."
Taylor said several volunteers, including some of the county's school bus drivers, have volunteered to run youth activities at the proposed center if no one can be hired to do so.
"We just want a facility for our young people to go to for soccer, baseball, football," Taylor said. "A building for them they can utilize to do things when they are out of school."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.