CONWAY -- The Horry County Council took the first step Tuesday night to bring a new senior citizen center to the growing area of Carolina Forest by unanimously voting to lease land needed to construct the new facility.
The Horry County Council on Aging, Inc. wants to construct the new center on Carolina Forest Boulevard next to the Carolina Forest Recreation Center , replacing the current store-front facility operating in a plaza off Gate Way Ave., said Ray Fontaine, executive director of the council.
“It’s just perfect for what we are looking for,” Fontaine said.
An architect is already drawing up designs for a building, to better accommodate the Carolina Forest area that is one of the fastest growing regions of the county.
The current facility can only hold 25 to 30 people, but the new center will be 5,000 square feet to serve as many as 100.
“We’re concerned about fire marshal issues because there are so many people coming there,” Fontaine said.
Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught chairs the Infrastructure and Regulations Committee and has been working with the council for the past year to find property for a new facility.
“They’ve been packing people in there,” Vaught said of the current center.
“This is just a win-win for Carolina Forest because we have a lot of retirees out there and the facility is just totally overwhelmed,” Vaught said.
The new facility will be constructed beside the recreation center and very close to the Carolina Forest Library, with its own parking lot and drop-off area.
It’s an ideal location, because it creates a campus that will encourage senior citizens to participate in activities at the recreation center and visit the library, Vaught said.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Vaught said. “It’s going to be really ideal, with plenty of space out there.”
The Councils on Aging are a non-profit corporation that was created after Congress passed the Older Americans Act of 1965. The Horry County council was founded in 1975.
By partnering with the county to lease the land for 25 years for one dollar a year, the council can borrow the $1.1 million needed from a bank to construct the center. Without the lease agreement, Fontaine said the price tag would be too high to expand the operation.
There are several centers in Horry County that provide activities as well as in-home services for the elderly. The other centers are located in Myrtle Beach, Aynor, Bucksport, Burgess, Conway, Green Sea, Loris, and the North Strand.
The centers also provide meals, transportation, exercise programs, some health services, employment opportunities and field trips.