The county council voted 6-3 in favor of the second reading of the plan during a special meeting that included a public hearing Tuesday night at Aiken Technical College.
Before the vote, the council heard from dozens of people about the Tax Increment Financing district, which would be used to help fund Project Jackson, in a hearing that lasted a little more than three hours.
Boos and shouts of encouragement could be heard periodically from the crowd during statements from supporters and opponents.
At one point, as North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones spoke, the crowd’s response prompted the Council Chairman Ronnie Young to sternly remind the audience to “be ladies and gentlemen about this thing.”
Many who spoke in favor of the project cited growth, improving the quality of life and job creation.
Several who spoke in opposition were mostly against the public-private partnership and instead suggested that the project be completed using only private funds. Many also encouraged the decision-makers to let the project go to referendum so that the residents of Aiken County could decide.
County Councilman Phil Napier made a motion for a referendum, but only he and Willar Hightower voted for it.
Debbie Nix, a resident of Aiken, said her concern was that the council was basing its vote on numbers that are “not a sure thing,” she said.
“But obviously that’s OK. It’s what they wanted to do, it looks like,” she said.
Nix said she was glad for the opportunity for a public hearing, but also felt that the council didn’t really listen to what people had to say.
“The people came out tonight and they spoke. Not certain they were heard, but they spoke,” she said.
The third and final ordinance reading will be held Tuesday during the regular council meeting.
In the next week, there’s still more work to be done, said North Augusta City Administrator Todd Glover.
“I think there were a lot of comments made tonight that we can easily accommodate,” he said. “We’ll do that because we’ve asked for a partnership. When you do that, you have to take into account what your partners are asking for and that’s what we wanted to do from the beginning.”