April 8, 2014

Mayor withdraws request for $2 million add-on to baseball loan

The extra $2 million on the $29 million baseball park loan would have paid for a new entrance for the Columbia Museum of Art and a pedestrian walkway connecting the city’s historic homes.

COLUMBIA, SC Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin this morning pulled off City Council's agenda his own proposal to add $2 million to a city loan package that is slated to pay for a new baseball stadium.

Benjamin said Monday he was going to ask council to endorse in principle a $31 million loan rather than a $29 million one.

Benjamin wants the extra money to build a one-mile pedestrian path to connect the city's historic homes to the proposed Bull Street neighborhood where a city-owned, year-round ballpark would be constructed. And about $500,000 of the extra $2 million would pay for a new entrance and other upgrades at the Columbia Museum of Art.

A city spokeswoman referred questions to Benjamin about why he asked that his proposed resolution be removed from council's 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall.

Efforts to reach Benjamin about noon Tuesday were unsuccessful.

But his spokesman, Michael Wukela, said Benjamin withdrew the add-on because some council members were concerned about linking money for the pathway and the museum with the controversial plan for financing the ballpark.

In an email Monday morning to adminstrators of Historic Columbia Foundation and the museum, Benjamin wrote: “I’ve received some concerns from council members who support both CMA & Historic Columbia but may not support baseball and don’t want to vote against these two worthy initiatives.”

Benjamin still will ask council at the 6 p.m. meeting to vote on a resolution for a $29 million loan that would be repaid from the 2 percent tax that patrons pay on prepared meals and beverages. A resolution is a statement of the will of council. That vote would not substitute for one of the two votes on funding as required by state law.

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