Community leaders and east-end residents were happy to enter the newly renovated Liberty County Community Complex on Friday in Midway to formally dedicate the facility.
The project took more than a decade to evolve from a shared dream to a reality, county officials said.
Prior to cutting the ribbon on the refurbished complex, a number of local leaders spoke about how the county commission and Liberty County school board worked together on the project, reminisced about the site’s history and expounded on the positive impact the facility will have on residents for generations to come.
Former Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver stated the complex renovations were one of his greatest accomplishments during his time in office. McIver said it took two rounds of SPLOST, in 2004 and 2008, to acquire the $5.2 million in special local-option sales-tax monies to fund the project.
The complex offers a community meeting room, an expanded branch of the Live Oak Public Library, a recreation programming room, a pool, an office for Keep Liberty Beautiful, a playground and administrative services to better serve the county’s east end residents. Plans for a second phase include a walking trail, gym renovations, a pavilion and sports fields. Work on the final phase will commence when funds are available, county officials said.
The complex formerly housed the old Liberty County High School, which was attended by African-American students during the years of segregation. The high school closed in 1972 and then was used as an elementary school. Several of the people who spoke at the dedication ceremony — including McIver, Liberty County District 1 Commissioner Marion Stevens, state Rep. Al Williams, Midway Mayor Dr. Clemontine Washington, and Liberty County High Alumni Association president Charles Frasier — graduated from the old high school.
“This place means a lot to us,” Williams said during the ceremony.
County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said the county acquired the east-end property through a “land swap.”
“The board of education was given property on Airport Road for a proposed middle school, and the county was given the old Liberty Elementary School site,” Lovette said. “Through several rounds of discussion, it was decided to turn the old school into a community center to benefit the residents of east Liberty County. A leading point in that decision was the need for a sufficient library in that area. The library that was being used, an old voting precinct, was unsightly and sorely limited in space and the ability to provide the basic library programs.”
Lovette said the Liberty County High Alumni Association approached the commission requesting they be allowed to secure a presence at the community complex. The county agreed, he said. The association has installed a history room filled with memorabilia, the chairman said.
Lovette also gave credit to his fellow commissioners and his predecessor for their efforts in making the complex a reality.
“While I am honored to be a part of this project, credit must be given to the leadership of former Chairman John McIver in bringing this project to fruition,” Lovette said. “He is certainly deserving of the honor of the auditorium bearing his name in a future ceremony.”
Lovette said Stevens “was adamant” about including a pool at the complex.
“He had promised the constituents of District 1 he would rally for a pool to replace the formerly closed pool at the Historic Dorchester Academy,” the chairman explained. “It would benefit the east end residents and help to provide for overcrowding at the Hinesville pool.”
Lovette said the complex renovation is a testament to the 1-cent sales tax, which can only be used to fund capital projects.