City OKs money to rebuild demolished depot

Kendrick Brinson/Staff
Aiken's city council approved $500,000 in additional funding to rebuild the railroad depot that was demolished more than 50 years ago. Two council members voted against it, saying public money shouldn't be used.

AIKEN - The Aiken Railroad Depot project received additional funding from the city council Monday, bringing the city's total contribution to $500,000.


And some council members are not pleased about it.

"I don't think that kind of museum as it has been constructed should be paid for by public funds," said Council member Richard Smith. The measure was passed by 5-2 vote.

Work began last month on the $3 million replica of the depot that was demolished more than 50 years ago.

Because of the project's hefty price tag, the Friends of Aiken Railroad Depot committee have asked the city council to contribute an additional $250,000 for the project.

City Manager Roger LeDuc advised the council that $125,000 could come from the one-cent sales tax to fund streetscape improvements to Union Street, and the remaining $125,000 would come from the accommodations tax fund.

Mayor Fred Cavanaugh explained that the funding would not come out of the general fund.

"The accommodations tax fund is made by visitors and tourists," he said. "It's people who come in and stay in our hotels and motels."

Council member Don Wells said the one-cent sales tax has already been approved for streetscape improvements.

"The streetscape on Union Street will be done whether there's a depot or not," he said.

At last month's council meeting, committee member Preston Rahe said his group wanted to raise 70 percent of the money through private donations and the remaining 30 percent through public entities.

The depot will be located in the "foundation footprints" of the old depot at Union Street and Park Avenue and will house a railroad museum and the city's tourism office and provide two dining cars for catering.

There are hopes that the depot will stimulate new business and investment downtown around Park Avenue and Cumberland and Union streets.

Council member Jane Vaughters joined Mr. Smith in opposing the depot.

"I don't think our purpose is to create catering venues," she said.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or