AIKEN - The Aiken City Council voted Monday night against hauling rubble for the Kroger Co. and said the criteria for Aiken's demolition program needed to be clarified.
Council members voted 6-1 against the request and said they denied the grocery store chain because it had bought commercial property at the corner of Whiskey and Pine Log roads and made plans to level it before approaching the city April 12.
The council said giving the company money would defeat the purpose of Aiken's demolition program, which was created about 10 years ago to entice businesses that might not build in the city unless they got help leveling commercial-size buildings.
"I think it probably needs to be tweaked with some other criteria," Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said, adding that the program should be continued.
The city is helping developers haul rubble from a theater on Laurens Street that owners began to level last week, and officials plan to help state Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken, demolish a gas station at the corner of Park and Hayne avenues that he plans to replace with townhouses.
Councilman Pat Cunning suggested that the city require requests for demolition in writing during the planning process, while Councilwoman Lessie Price said the offer could be limited to downtown Aiken because the southside is growing rapidly.
The council decided against placing a moratorium on the program, which Councilwoman Jane Vaughters suggested, but said it would consider moving between $90,000 and $100,000 in the demolition account into the city's general fund.
Public Works Director Larry Morris said he didn't think the city had ever used money from the account to assist in demolitions. It has, however, used city crews, equipment and gasoline to haul off debris.
Mrs. Vaughters also recommended that the city do more to ease the economic burden on existing businesses instead of "bending over backward" to help newcomers.
"There's a lot of gray area here," she said. "Let's go ahead and formalize it."
The council decided against changing the plan Monday and asked city staffers to provide recommendations for later consideration.
Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895 or email@example.com.