DUNN — Members of the Plain View community are making progress towards building a park for northern Sampson County.
But to make the vision become a reality at the community center, it’s going to need more commitment from supporters and local leaders. The Plain View Community Coalition (PVCC) hosted a fundraiser and town hall meeting inside the site’s gymnasium Thursday with Sampson County leaders.
The PVCC was formed after the new Plain View School opened and the old school structure was given to the community. Since then, plans began to rebuild the area after it closed, following the opening of a new building to educate students.
“I don’t think the life of this property is over,” said Kim Schmidlin, grant and fundraising coordinator. “We’ve come a long way and this was an obstacle that people think we would not be able to tackle with private dollars.”
It was announced that $200,000 was raised to tear the building down and to keep the gym open.
She made a presentation and proposal about the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF), which provides matching grants to local governments for parks and recreational projects. This would require support from Sampson County government officials, since eligibility requires municipalities to take ownership of the land. For matching funds, it would have to come from the county, fundraising efforts or a combination of both sources.
“I consider that the community already raised a couple hundred thousand dollars to get us to this point, so we definitely have some skin in the game,” she said.
According to officials, more than $1.10 million in PARTF funds have been awarded to Sampson County communities, which totaled $2.22 million after matching efforts were made by municipalities. The projects included the Autryville Walking Trail and Clinton’s handicapped access, Samson Center Gym/land acquisition, Clinton Soccer Complex, improvements for Sampson Center, and construction at Royal Lane Park. The Western District Community Park, sponsored by Sampson County was also on the list.
According to a timeline between 2004 and 2009, the PVCC entered into an agreement with the Sampson County Parks and Recreation Department to run the Northern Park District from the old Plain View School. Before the school fell into disrepair, it was used for recreational purposes.
In 2009, district specific parks and recreation locations closed and employees were sent to Clinton. A structure was not set up for maintenance and items such as the bleachers and scoreboard was removed. By 2012, there were no source of income and the power was off. PVCC officials held a fundraiser to get the lights turned back. The organization also filed as not-for-profit 501(c)3 group and received status in 2014.
In 2016, fundraising began to raze the old school building and demolition started in 2017. It’s estimated that the structure and debris will be removed by June.
“As a community, we have to think about if we’re willing to lease the property back to the county,” Schmidlin said to the audience about that back and forth history of ownership. “We’re really in a period of time that if we’re going to purse this, we would have to approach the county within the next few months.”
According to plans, the the next phase will include the construction of a Plain View Memorial Wall with original bricks from the building. The wall will include donor plaques. Benches will also be installed. An effort to save the cupola from the original building are also included. Phase III is pursuing grants and fundraising for Northern Sampson County Park.
“It’s a big vision to think about a park over there, when we’re still seeing the old school,” she said. “But we are not limited by big visions. I think we’ve had them for a long time and we’ll continue to have them.”
Some of it includes a walking trail, ball fields, and children enjoying playground equipment.
“That’s what our community really needs,” she said. “And I think that we’re closer than ever to achieving that.”
Coalition members showed appreciation for the support shown to the project during the years.
“It has been a really huge project and we still have a long way to go in order to see a park come to fruition,” Schmidlin said. “I’m proud of how far we’ve come. When it comes to getting private donations and support, it’s one thing for people to commit money to building something, it’s another for people to commit money to tearing something down, especially something with so much historical significance.”
Prior to the event, $111,000 was collected. The coalition set a goal to raise $150,000 for remediation purposes. The PVCC sold about 250 spaghetti plates and all 150 tickets for a $1,500 reverse raffle drawing. After expenses and the prize giveaway, the coalition collected $6,500 which will help sustain the gym for another year.
PVCC Treasurer Jim Schmidlin said he was happy that elected officials and residents showed support during the night.
“The community has been so strong and so supportive,” he said. “What a wonderful community Plain View is.”
Clark Wooten, chairman of the Sampson County Board of Commissioners, and other officials spoke to PVCC and audience members about county affairs. He also showed support for the community and the project.
“I’m very proud of what’s going on here in the Plain View community and this site,” Wooten said. “It’s taking a lot of vision and a lot of hard work. Everybody should be proud of what’s happening.”
Sampson County’s Manager Ed Causey, spoke about the financial status of the county. Some of the highlights of recent developments included an increase of salaries for employees, a tax rate decrease during the last fiscal year, post-employment health benefits, and bonds selling. Causey said the financial for the county are “safe.”
“I would not tell you that we’re rolling in cash,” Causey said. “We have ways to go, but we are making sound decisions.”
Public Works Director Public Works Director Lin Reynolds talked about improving water quality issues in the Plain View area. One action taken was to increase in water pressure, which residents should see soon. He encouraged the audience to contact Sampson officials is they experience problems.
Wooten added to the presentation by talking about an increase in the fund balance and increasing money for local school system’s students county. He gave credit to his colleagues for the efforts.
“The thing that I want you to understand before you leave here is that a lot of that happened within the last year,” Wooten said before recognizing former leaders while talking about tax decreases.”We made great strides and what made it available to do was work that’s been done in the years past.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.