What would a $1.2 million Richland County Council chamber look like?

A closed circuit look at the Richland County Council Chambers in 2012.
A closed circuit look at the Richland County Council Chambers in 2012.

A divided Richland County Council on Tuesday approved spending as much as $1.2 million to renovate its chambers.

The $1,246,785 price tag would give the 3,000-square-foot area where County Council and other government officials gather a modern and “more executive feel,” according to a description in council’s agenda packet for a special-called meeting.

The renovations, to be done by Solid Structures, would take place in August during council’s typical break from meetings, said chairwoman Joyce Dickerson.

Largely, the remake would improve audio/visual, heating and air-conditioning systems and upgrade access for disabled people who attend functions in the chamber.

Further, the chamber would have LED lighting, “accent lighting on council members to allow better visibility on video feeds,” a new dais for council, new furniture, an ante room for council and staff, more space for food and drinks during meetings and a public seating capacity of 120 t0 150 people. New millwork would help create the “executive feel.”

With little debate, council voted 8-3 to spend the money. Councilmen Bill Malinowski, Greg Pearce and Seth Rose cast the only dissenting votes.

“There are so much more pressing items in Richland County than a seven-figure renovation of council chambers,” Rose said after the vote.

Pearce said, “Expenditure of that much money at this time, it did not feel appropriate.” He declined to elaborate about the timing or the appropriateness of the decision.

Dickerson, before the vote, said from the dais, “We want it beautiful.”

Afterward, she told The State newspaper, “We think we need it. We’ve had a lot of complaints about how we appear on the screens and how it sounds.”

Additionally, Dickerson said that technology upgrades and the cost of two bathrooms accessible to the disabled amounted to about half the total, so it made sense to do the rest.

Councilman Paul Livingston, council’s senior member and a former chairman, said he supports the renovation because of the need to replace outdated audio/visual equipment.

He, too, said it’s worth making the other improvements at the same time to a chamber he said has not been renovated in some 25 years. The chamber is on the second floor of the county administration building at Harden and Hampton streets near the Five Points entertainment district.