The committee charged with evaluating options for the long-closed Greenwood Civic Center is scheduled to make a report to Greenwood County Council at their regular meeting Tuesday. The meeting will be held in the Veterans Auditorium of the Greenwood County Library at 5:30 p.m.
The civic center has been at the center of much debate since its closure in 2009. While there have been many discussions since that time, those discussions have ramped up in the past year. In March 2013, council chairman Mark Allison said he would like to see a committee comprised of Greenwood County citizens evaluate the possibilities. The discussions lay dormant for a couple of months until a public hearing was held in July 2013 and a heated discussion took place in Nov. 2013.
Councilman Robbie Templeton, who has been a vocal advocate of tearing the building down, said he felt there were motivations other than a decision about the building spurring council toward referring the issue to a committee.
“I know we have some differing opinions,” Templeton said during the Nov. 2013 council meeting. “I understand how the committee talk evolved. Candidly, I think part of that is trying to provide some political cover for us if we decide to close it down.”
Templeton also reminded council during the Nov. 2013 meeting of the debates which took place when Lowe’s first expressed interest in building a store in Greenwood. Templeton passed around overhead shots of the area prior to the construction of Lowe’s and told council that difficult decisions were made to pave the way for what is now a bustling commercial area and said the same foresight could be beneficial once again.
“Council had the intestinal fortitude and the vision at that time to make (a difficult) decision to displace some people from their homes,” Templeton said. “There were some ugly public hearings and emotional pleas from people who did not want to be displaced from their homes, but we did it and Greenwood is much, much, much better off. I think we have the same opportunity with the civic center.”
Councilman Chuck Moates has also been a vocal advocate of tearing down the once-bustling facility and said he thought a committee was a waste of time.
“I, for one, think (a committee) is a waste of time,” Moates said during the meeting. “I wish we would consider something else like going ahead and either voting to take down the civic center or leave it intact instead of having it on our hands another five or 10 years.”
Councilman Steve Brown noted during the meeting that several members of council were not seated in 2009 when the decision was made to close the civic center.
“I think it’s totally unfair for those of us new to council,” Brown said. “County councils prior to us made the decision to close that building and let it sit there. If everybody was so fired up to tear it down, why didn’t they tear it down three or four years ago? I think I have a right to as much information as those who have been on council a long time. I want to be as passionate about my vote as (Mr. Templeton) and Mr. Moates are.”
Allison asked for a motion to tear down the civic center during the Nov. 21 meeting, but no motion was ever made. Allison then said he would be referring the matter to a committee.
“I believe in my position as chairman I have the right to refer this to a committee,” Allison said. “At this point, I am going to take that liberty. I am going to refer it to committee. I think the first order of business will be to determine if we need a multi-purpose facility in any state and can (the civic center) be modified to meet that need.”
Each council member appointed one person from their district to serve on the committee. Moates was hesitant to appoint someone to the committee.
“I’m not sure I would subject anyone to that ordeal,” Moates said of the committee. “Again, I think it is a waste of time. You may have the privilege of referring it to committee, but referring it to committee is a waste of their time and the county time. This needs to be dealt with.”
Greenwood County special projects manager Rossie Corwon was then asked to establish criteria for the committee. Corwon laid out five scenarios for the committee to evaluate and pointed out that the committee would not be making a recommendation on which scenario to pursue, but would only provide information on each scenario. The five scenarios the committee evaluated are:
- Keep the civic center usage as an arena
- Keep the civic center for county use and remodel the building
- Partially demolish the building and reuse it
- Fully demolish the building and use it for county purposes
- Sell the six acres and the civic center or the entire complex.
Corwon also laid out evaluation criteria for each scenario that included funding sources for short-term and long-term care of the civic center and the surrounding property.
The full committee is expected to be present at Tuesday’s meeting to make a presentation which should last about 30 minutes, according to Allison, who says he is ready to move forward with the civic center issue.
“If all the information is that it’s not going to work, I’m ready to move forward,” Allison said. “If the information that it is viable to renovate and use it, then I am ready to go that direction as well. (The committee) has put in a lot of time, a lot of research and I’m ready to see what the options are.”