Local lawmakers hope to create government complex housing Chapin library, county facilities

11/18/2013 6:54 PM

11/19/2013 6:36 AM

Horry County and Myrtle Beach staff are working to narrow down a list of potential sites for a complex in Myrtle Beach that could house Chapin Memorial Library, the Horry County Department of Health and other county offices.

County Councilman Marion Foxworth, of Myrtle Beach, said he hopes that facility will sit in downtown Myrtle Beach. Foxworth pointed to a large area of land behind the Myrtle Beach Train Depot that he thinks could be ideal.

“The part of downtown we’re looking at is backed up by several acres of land that’s not used right now,” Foxworth said Monday during a joint meeting of city, county and state lawmakers, adding that businesses along Broadway Street and Eighth Avenue North would benefit from the complex. “If that’s being used five days a week, 52 weeks a year, it would be a shot in the arm to an area that could really use the boost.”

Foxworth said he hopes the county and city are able to create a campus environment that would include the health clinic currently located at 700 21st Ave. N., the offices located in the Olin I. Blanton County Office Building at 1201 21st Ave. N. – including the assessors’ office and the magistrate – and Chapin Memorial Library.

This spring city and county council members met with staff members from Horry County and Myrtle Beach to begin taking steps toward getting the city out of library services. The group has not met since April, Myrtle Beach assistant city manager Ron Andrews said.

In South Carolina, counties are tasked with maintaining public libraries, making Chapin the only city-run library in the state.

The county spends about $4.2 million annually to operate its nine libraries and it costs the city about $1.2 million to run Chapin, Andrews said.

Other locations discussed include expanding the Olin I. Blanton County Office Building on 21st Avenue North, using the old terminal at the Myrtle Beach International Airport or developing other vacant pieces of land in Myrtle Beach, such as property along Robert Grissom Parkway between 21st Avenue North and Mr. Joe White Avenue. Both Foxworth and Andrews said the airport was an unlikely site due to difficult accessibility and Transportation Security Administration safety issues.

“The idea of the complex downtown is picking up some support,” Foxworth said.

Andrews said to pinpoint a site for the project, which will be a county building, the city and county councils need to determine how much money each will spend.

“Before we can do a firm recommendation, the budget is going to have to be established,” Andrews said.

He said he hopes to work with assistant county administrator Steve Gosnell over the next month to compile a list of locations along with details of any upgrades that would need to be made to the property, such as creating road access or installing sewer lines.

Foxworth said the County Council earmarked $1 million in the capital budget for fiscal year 2016 – which begins July 2015 – for a library project. The Carolina Forest library, which opened in August 2012, cost $4.2 million to build.

Foxworth said both the health clinic and Olin I. Blanton buildings need to be improved.

“We’re going to have to do something with the health department and 21st Avenue building,” he said. “Whether or not the library is part of it is really the city’s call.”

Andrews said he hopes to present site options to the city-county library committee in January, giving the members the information needed to move forward.

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