Councilwoman slams City of Aiken over library decision

A historic building in Aiken County is on the verge of being destroyed. (WRDW-TV)

A historic building in Aiken County is on the verge of being destroyed. (WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, June 4, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Aiken County's first library, which many believe is an historic landmark, will be saved, but it won't be placed next to the Aiken County Historical Museum in the City of Aiken.

On Tuesday night, the Aiken County Council voted to place the library, which is currently located on Surrey Race Road east of Aiken, on a plot of land in Wagener that's been donated by Wagener Mayor Mike Miller.

The vote comes after the City of Aiken's Board of Zoning Appeals voted down the request to locate the library, which will house historic items specific to Aiken County's eastern half near the Aiken County Historical Museum on Newberry Street. Some city leaders said the library would be too close to the road. Other members of the public reportedly said the building should be destroyed. Others said it wouldn't fit the character of other buildings within Aiken city limits.

On Tuesday night at the County Council meeting, Councilwoman Kathy Rawls, who represents the eastern portion of the county, delivered a scathing speech directed at the Aiken leaders who denied the original request.

"I realize now it would have been unforgivable to locate this historical library in the City of Aiken where certain 'leaders' have no appreciation of the history of the northeastern 60 percent of the county," she said. "I am happy that we will locate our museum on our side of the county because it has become obvious that these officials have no appreciation or interest in anything outside the city limits."

Rawls said she's happy about the new location and thankful for the generosity of the Town of Wagener, but she says Aiken's decision to deny the library brought her to tears.

"I have apologized to the council members for 'the slap in the face' by the board, and I am sorry for asking Council Council to locate a county building on county property within the city," Rawls said. "The northeastern side of the county has such a great history and is such a nice place to live that it would be a shame to hide any of its rural charm with the city of Aiken. It is understandable why so many people have moved to this area to enjoy the beauty and solitude of nature's abundance."

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