Aiken County might lend $1.3 million for depot

AIKEN --- The Aiken County Council tonight will consider lending Aiken Corp. $1.3 million to help complete the Railroad Depot.

The loan would fund the $800,000 worth of construction to complete renovating the historic structure, and the remaining $500,000 would supplement pledges that have not been collected from donors, Assistant City Manager Richard Pearce said.

The loan would have an interest rate of about 2 percent, and the council would decide the terms, he said.

Just last week, the organization placed five railroad community dioramas on the second floor of the depot, which is at the corner of Union Street and Park Avenue. The creation, shipment and installation of those replicas cost about $180,000, said Don Barnes, a technical consultant for Aiken Corp.

The project has a $3 million budget.

Construction on the depot's railcars, passenger platforms and baggage building must be complete before the May grand opening, Mr. Barnes said.

The city has lent money to the company in the past, Mr. Pearce said. Aiken Corp. is paying back a $3.5 million loan that helped fund the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. The organization has paid that loan down to $2.2 million.

The council will also select a mayor pro tem tonight. Former Mayor Pro Tem Jane Vaughters ended her eight-year tenure on the council last month.

The member selected would get a pay raise from $9,000 a year to $12,000 and preside over meetings in the absence of Mayor Fred Cavanaugh, Mr. Pearce said.

"The selection happens every two years," he said. "The person will have a lot more responsibility."

Based on seniority, Councilman Don Wells would be selected as mayor pro tem, but the council will make the final decision, Mr. Pearce said.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall, 214 Park Ave. S.W.

Reach Stephanie Toone at (803) 648-1395 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

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