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Council backs loan to get land

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AIKEN - Aiken City Council unanimously passed a motion Monday to loan $250,000 to Aiken County or to Aiken County Open Land Trust to help buy a 210-acre recreational facility off Boyd Pond Road.

The county had said Friday that it had reached an agreement in principle, pending a formal vote by the county council, with the board of directors of the Savannah River Site Operations Recreation Association to acquire the site.

The price was not disclosed. The county council will meet Oct. 30 to discuss the acquisition and disclose details of the agreement.

The county originally offered the board more than $1 million but submitted a new proposal last week.

City Manager Roger LeDuc said the loan amount would come from $1 million of 1-cent capital projects sales tax money that has been set aside for open space.

He also said the city is a member of the Operations Recreation Association.

The group bought the site, which includes a pond, recreation fields, a five-mile bike trail and a nine-hole golf course, in 1984 to provide recreational opportunities to SRS employees. Use of the property has declined steadily.

County Councilman Scott Singer said the county's offer to the association board will be in two parts.

County funds will be used to buy the 60 percent of the land that is developed, he said, and county funds plus a loan will go toward buying the undeveloped part.

"The city's portion will not be needed immediately," he said.

Harry Shealy, the Aiken County Open Land Trust board president, said the nonprofit was approached more than a year ago about helping to acquire the property. He said the trust would apply for a state grant to buy the more than 80 acres of undeveloped land.

"They can avail themselves to significant grant funding," Mr. Singer said of the nonprofit.

Mr. LeDuc also said the ability to secure funding increases with the number of parties that are included on a grant application.

According to the city council's motion, the loan is to be paid back in five years. Mr. Singer said, however, that the bulk probably will be returned "much quicker."

The county councilman said the association board had an opportunity to sell to a higher bidder. The association, though, recognized the value of keeping the property as open space, he said.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.


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