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Charleston Council Considers Funding Requests

There was little business before Charleston County Council at the February 24 session of the Finance Committee. But it was still a relatively long meeting because of presentations from three entities seeking funds to finance expansion or refurbishing projects.

Each had an eye to the deliberations of the council in the next month or so over the allocation of accommodation tax funds.

The first presentation was on behalf of the Gibbes Museum and its associate, the Carolina Art Association.

Angela Mack, the museum’s executive director, described its activities and then told of planned refurbishing and construction projects.

These would entail the creation of studios and rental facilities, amongst other things. The cost was estimated at less than $10 million, Mack said, adding that city of Charleston had committed to contributing $1.7 million.

Mack did not state what amount was being sought from the council.

The second presentation was by Mac Burdette, the executive director of the Patriots Point Development Authority.

He told the committee that the Authority was planning to create a leadership institute associated with the Medal of Honor Museum. The institute would sponsor meetings and conventions for business leaders and others.

It would be located in the USS Yorktown, and to renovate the area dedicated to the institute would cost about $400,000. The county was to be asked for $46,000.

The final presentation related to the Charleston Museum. Director John Brumgardt told the committee that money ran out when the museum was being constructed in 1980 and there was none left to finish the construction and furbishing of the courtyard. The cost was estimated at $362,000 and Brumgardt hoped that the county would make a contribution. The county and the city own the museum, two-thirds and one-third, respectively.

Council members had few questions of the presenters and indeed no decisions were called for last night.

Council member Dickie Schweers asked staff to gather details relating to the applications such as tourism impact and other funding sources – that would help council in its deliberations over the allocation of tax funds.

Council member Vic Rawl took this further. He noted that the presentations related to projects that could be described as “capital.” The implication was that funding might be possible through bonds rather than the allocation of tax monies.

Council member Joe Qualey questioned the role of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. A few years ago, the bureau, in conjunction with the College of Charleston, was tasked by the council to assess the merits of the applications by agencies and others for accommodation tax funds.

Schweers said that in his discussion with the Convention and Visitors Bureau at the time, it was clear it knew more about assessing projects than council members. Politics had been taken out of decision-making on allocations.

Qualey was not satisfied and wanted some assurance that the Convention and Visitors Bureau was qualified to make the assessments. Who was watching over it, he asked? Chairman Teddie Pryor suggested that Qualey meet with the bureau to gain the information that he sought.

Qualey retorted that he met with the Convention and Visitors Bureau last year and it was “difficult” to obtain the information he sought. Pryor, after some heated dialogue, instructed staff to set up a meeting for Qualey and other interested Council members with representatives of the bureau.

Warwick Jones is a resident of Charleston and has been involved with a number of area organizations, including the Charleston County Greenbelt Advisory Board and the Preservation Society of Charleston.

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