A few things that were beginning to stack up that I wanted to speak of…
First off, hats off to the Marlboro County Council for their selection of Marlboro native Ron Munnerlyn to serve as our new county administrator, while also filling the vacant position as director of the Marlboro County Economic Development Corporation. Building upon a strong foundation built in both the public and private sectors, most recently in Richmond County, NC, Munnerlyn brings a unique combination of managerial history and personal skills, economic development experience, and home-grown desire to grow that bodes well for the future. We wish him well as he transitions into his new responsibilities over the next few months.
Speaking of wishing well, I also want to single out Roy Allison, Marlboro County’s recently retired Director of 911/Emergency Management. Thanks to Mr. Allison’s diligence Marlboro County has been able to stay on the leading edge of technology and training, and as a result, we can now boast of as fine a 911 and central dispatching system as anyone of our size and resources in the state. Likewise, thanks to Allison’s dedication to his task, Marlboro is as well prepared as possible for any emergency with well-thought out and practiced plans and procedures, as well as equipment, in place and ready to assist residents thru any crisis. Kudos, Mr. Allison; enjoy your much-deserved time off.
As for much-deserved, one of Marlboro’s most important, yet most often overlooked, assets is about to be the focus of much-deserved—and very much-needed—attention as the Marlboro Civic Center will soon kick off a major capital improvement campaign to celebrate the centennial year of that structure. Initially constructed in 1917 and known as the Garden Theatre, our civic center has a rich history, once hosting plays and shows on a stage said to be the largest between Richmond and Atlanta. And thanks to Bennettsville being a watering stop for steam engine locomotives of the time, locals were able to enjoy touring entertainment ranging from vaudeville to ballet to first run Broadway plays and musicals. As entertainment options changed, the theatre also adapted, becoming the Cinema, showing motion pictures and hosting thousands of Marlboro residents of all ages. As home television became more popular, attendance waned, and the Cinema closed its doors and sat idle for several years. In the late 80’s, as part of a city-wide historic renovation plan, the old Garden Theatre/Cinema, now in disrepair, was donated to the Marlboro Arts Council and, eventually, a community wide effort to rescue the structure was initiated. And in 1995, eight years and $1.2 million raised thru the contributions of local industries, professionals, businesses, and individuals later, the Marlboro Civic Center was reborn. Since that time, the Civic Center has hosted events ranging from political gatherings to school concerts to Marlboro Player productions to concerts such as the one by Grand Ole Opry member Clint Black earlier this year. But as is the case with all things, time and use requires that a little maintenance be performed regularly and, 20 years after being rescued, the Civic Center is overdue for some work. Areas that have been specifically targeted for attention include outdoor stucco repair, painting, carpet replacement, and a general upgrade of facility assets that may have become obsolete or outdated. In order to raise funds for the upgrades to celebrate the 100th birthday, plans are in the works for several events including more “Card Nights” and a “Lip Sync Battle”, among others. One easy way for residents to support the renovations will be to participate in the brick naming program currently being put together. This will be an extension of the existing brick pavers currently in front of the Civic Center northward along Clyde Street and allow you to honor or commemorate an individual, group, or achievement by having the information engraved into the paver and it being placed along the Civic Center walkway. Friends, family, lost loved ones, old ball teams, a favorite teacher, class years, stage productions you were in, etc…any event can be memorialized, so be thinking, and be on the look out for more information coming soon on this one-time opportunity.
As odd as it may seem for Marlboro County, I want to talk about traffic a little bit. It appears that our first roundabout is now complete and in full operation out at the Highway 38 and Beauty Spot Road intersection, with a couple months of use behind it and, lo and behold, we’ve not suffered the traffic Armageddon that many feared. In fact, despite seeing heavy use by beach traffic, with the exception of a few minor incidents, and the occasional motorist who seemingly has difficulty grasping the “Yield” concept and comes to a complete stop, and one major snag when a lo-boy semi-trailer hauling an oversize tank somehow got itself high-centered on the island, for a few hours, on a scorching hot day, dang near backing traffic up to Hamlet, NC and causing a few travelers to overheat—and some of their cars to run hot, too, everything has been pretty much OK with the new traffic pattern. Which is great, because we probably needed the practice since roundabout number two is now under construction at the Highway 38/Oakwood Street crossing and that one is more residential, and potentially trickier.
Another note about local traffic is that, apparently thanks to technological advances, a great many of the beach-bound motorists headed to the Grand Strand from parts north and west of us who are using “shortest route” GPS navigation are now being directed to follow Business Highways 9 and 38…portions of our Main and Broad Streets. If you’ve been in Bennettsville on a Saturday or Sunday morning or midday lately you can attest to the fact that traffic can sometimes be backed up along Broad from Main to near the By-Pass. It’s kinda nice to see that again; it reminds me of the old, pre-Cottingham Boulevard days. I’m proud of our downtown and the ride up Broad with the Courthouse looming ahead is picturesque, especially when we have our sidewalk American flags flying.
One last traffic note: School’s back in, so be prepared for delays or sudden stops, especially before, during, or soon after school hours. Be aware of and obey all school bus right-of-way and passing laws. Be courteous and patient. Those are our kids, and they learn as much from us as they do at school. Be safe.