Mid-March is a strange time. It’s not quite one and not quite the other. Spring is poking its head around the corner every few days, but the season of renewal is not quite sure it’s ready to commit. Winter surely has one last cold surprise planned. But thankfully the azaleas and dogwoods are blooming with a promise that our heating bills may soon be shrinking. Along with all of this comes the natural human urge to get outside and get busy. Cleaning, planting, cutting, pruning, painting, fixing; it’s all good, productive exercise. Good for the mind, body and soul. All those old, unfinished projects from the past just kinda drag you down, don’t they?
Well, as a matter of fact, the City of Swainsboro has a few projects just like that. Back in 2014, the Karrh family generously donated the old downtown movie theater built in 1934 to the City of Swainsboro. During the next few years, a planning group of varied citizens got started, and an executive council with a chairperson was formed. Fund-raising efforts were successful enough to come up with the private donations needed to move things ahead with the first phase of planning, design and construction. More than 300 interested citizens supported the idea of turning the old theater into an ultramodern entertainment facility. They demonstrated that support with their own money, and the City Council voted to get behind the project too. So, after a great start and almost 2 years of steady progress, what happened? You might ask. Not surprisingly, the answer lies in the upheaval caused by the Covid epidemic, but also by the unpredictable,fickle nature of politics. The city council voted to suspend work on the theater project, and for a little over a year, things stood still. Disagreement and Hibernation happened. Then, in November of 2020, council voted a second time to support the theater project as well as the restoration of another city building, the old Swainsboro Elementary school gymnasium. From that point, both projects moved forward with significant activity including structural improvements, HVAC, and plumbing until the end of 2021.
Since then, both projects continue to try to raise funds but not much progress has taken place. Both projects are at substantial stages of completion thanks to the efforts of local citizens. Both projects continue to have tremendous potential, but both projects require guidance, direction and the involvement of our local government. The need for both of these projects has been demonstrated repeatedly by surveys and polls that list the lack of programs and activities available for our young people as a serious detriment to our community. This is true today in many rural areas like ours. The theater project would directly address this problem, and provide a gathering place and a venue for events featuring state of the art sound and visual-effect experience. Not only would it provide first run movies in an upscale, comfortable setting, but it would also be a focal point for live performances and special events from all sides of local life. The gymnasium project would serve as a center for the extension of educational opportunity, goal-direction, and career building skills along with personal growth and community involvement. It would also address the ever-growing need for recreational and leisure activities. In short, both of these projects would open eyes and minds to new possibilities and opportunities not just for the young, but for all ages. I was recently very encouraged to see that City Council voted to allocate funds from ARPA grants and other non-tax revenues toward finishing these two projects. They both would certainly provide benefits for our community for generations to come. These are things that need to be finished, and we respectfully encourage the City to get it done. It would be good for the mind, body and soul of Swainsboro.