Columbia council calls special meeting to finalize financing of Palmetto Compress warehouse

cleblanc@thestate.comApril 22, 2013 

— In an 11th-hour move, Columbia City Council has called a special meeting Tuesday to finalize a plan to finance its controversial purchase of the Palmetto Compress warehouse.

The agenda for 1 p.m. meeting has only two items on it, both dealing with the nearly century-old, 320,000-square-foot former cotton warehouse.

Council is slated to give the second and last vote to create an economic development fund, called a “closing fund,” that would have money to buy and save the building that preservationists have been fighting for months to protect from demolition.

The related agenda item is to approve a resolution authorizing city manager Teresa Wilson to draft a loan agreement for the purchase. Council has been discussing an initial $7 million loan from First Citizens Bank that would pay the owners of the building $5.65 million and would assume maintenance and other costs.

The meeting was announced barely within state law requirements that the public have 24 hours of notice of a meeting by a public body. However, council already is meeting Tuesday morning to take up for the first time next fiscal year’s city budget.

Both meetings are in the same location, the conference room of the city parking garage on Washington Street across from police headquarters.

Council will start the day at 9 this morning with a budget workshop that will offer the full council its first look at the proposed 2013-14 budget. A draft of the budget is weighted by a $4 million deficit in the $125.7 million general fund, the account from which most of Columbia’s government operates.

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