Aiken Co. Council shoots down GreenJackets proposal

By: Chad Mills Email
By: Chad Mills Email

Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- In a surprising vote to the room of onlookers and officials from the City of North Augusta, the Aiken County Council voted to deny the financing (TIF) to bring a GreenJackets baseball stadium, a large hotel, new restaurants and a whole lot more to the North Augusta riverfront.

Councilwoman Kathy Rawls moved to deny it, and it was seconded by Councilwoman Lawana McKenzie. Councilman Scott Singer and Willar Hightower later joined them in the vote to deny it.

Councilman Chuck Smith strongly supported the TIF. He said the jobs are needed after the announcements of furloughs and possible layoffs at Savannah River Site. Chairman Ronnie Young and Sandy Haskell joined him in support.

Newly-elected Councilman Andrew Siders abstained. He told Chairman Young that he did not know enough about the TIF to vote on it properly.

North Augusta City Manager Todd Glover left the meeting before he could be reached for comment. However, North Augusta City Councilman Kenneth McDowell said he was disappointed in the county's decision. He says he hopes the city will make changes to the proposal, so it could possibly be more favorable to Aiken County Council.

"Is the project dead? I hope not. I hope they'll look at it and see if there's any way we can make it work, but this certainly puts a strain on us," he says.

Councilman Singer and others said they'd be willing to support the proposal if tax rates for property inside the TIF would be frozen at current levels. Right now, they're frozen at 1996 levels, which is when the Hammond's Ferry TIF was originally established.

Another vote would have to occur in a special called meeting. Right now, North Augusta's deadline is Monday, March 18. Council would need to vote to approve it before then. However, it remains to be seen if the City of North Augusta will make the changes to make the proposal more attractive to the Aiken County Council.

McDowell says the finances are tight, and it may not be possible, but he's still hopeful.

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