Richland County’s ambitious “Richland Renaissance” building program will get its first public airing on Tuesday, months after it was developed without public knowledge and narrowly adopted without public input.
The long-range plans include selling the current Richland County Judicial Center on Columbia’s Main Street, demolishing the Harden Street administration building and replacing it with a new courthouse. Administrative offices would be moved to Columbia Place mall — parts of which the county is already purchasing — and a wide range of services would be established in other parts of the county.
The plan, estimated at $144.2 million, was unveiled in December without an opportunity for public comment. Adoption of the plan narrowly passed Richland County Council 6-5 with critics complaining about a lack of public input amid fears the cost could be $250 million or higher.
In a press release, county administrator Gerald Seals said some critics claimed the figure was “voodoo economics.”
“There is no voodoo,” it said. “And the only economic wizardry exhibited is the financial acumen displayed to protect Richland County taxpayers.”
The meeting will be held from 5:30 p.m.to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Columbia Place Mall on the second floor of the former Dillard's store.
The store — along with two other former anchors, Burlington Coat Factory and Sears – will become the site of several Richland County government offices.
The release said the event is one of the first of a new “Engage Richland” program series that “puts residents in direct conversation with county staff through public meetings, hands-on demonstrations, workshops, facility tours, special events and more.”
As to the cost, the release said administrators stand by the cost estimate of $144 million “unless council votes to increase it.” The cost could be covered with no tax increase by using money already in hand and by borrowing money under current tax levys.