UNION COUNTY — While it has been closed for some time the old Sims High School on Sims Drive is still worth more than $2.1 million and could be redeveloped to again serve the community.
That was the message Modest Keenan brought to Union County Council during its August meeting Tuesday evening. Keenan pointed out that the school, which he said sits on 20 acres of land, is 70,000 square feet in size and includes classrooms which he said could be used as office space; a gym that he described as “second to none in the city;” a new metal roof that was installed a few years ago; and an auditorium that can seat approximately 300 and had also undergone renovations some years ago. He said that even though the school has been closed and unused for several years, it is listed by the county as being worth $2,168,000.
While the property is still in good shape and therefore worth a great deal, Keenan cautioned that the longer it sits unused the more likely it is to deteriorate. To prevent that, Keenan proposed that the county — together with the City of Union — look into renovating the property for use by the community. He pointed out that the community of Holly Hill had undertaken a similar project, renovating what he said had been a middle school for use as as a community complex.
Keenan recommended that the county use “Pennies for Progress” to finance the project. He said that through Pennies for Progress a referendum would be held which, if approved by the voters, would authorize the levying of a sales tax for seven years. Keenan said the revenue generated by the tax would be used to renovate the property which he said would be spelled out in the referendum. He said the revenue could only be used for that purpose and could not be used for anything else. At the end of those seven years, Keenan said the tax would automatically be eliminated.
(In his presentation about Pennies for Progress, Keenan pointed out that food would be exempt from the sale tax were it approved by the voters.)
Keenan told council that he would also address Union City Council and urged both councils to come together to put the referendum before the public and bring about the renovation of the property. He said that the property is an asset to the community and should be renovated to fully benefit the community and not allowed to just sit and rot like so many other buildings in Union County have.
There have been a total of three schools in Union County with the name Sims, all of them named for clergyman and educator Rev. A.A. Sims.
The first was the original Sims High School which opened in 1927 and was located on Union Boulevard in Union and, in 1929, became the first state-accredited high school for African-Americans in the Upstate. The school was founded by Rev. Sims who served as its first principal from 1927-1951.
In 1956, the second Sims High School opened at 200 Sims Drive, Union, and continued to serve as high school until 1970 when, as a result of desegregation, it became Sims Junior High School. The facility, which is owned by the Union County School District, continued to serve as a junior high school until 2009 when it it was closed.
In August 2009, Sims Middle School, the third school to bear the name Sims opened at 2200 Whitmire Highway, Union.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.