County approves Project Jackson by vote of six to three

  • Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 12:01 a.m.
Staff Photo by Scott Rodgers
Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young, center, counts the six votes in favor of Project Jackson. Flanking him are Vice Chairman Sandy Haskell, left, and Councilman Chuck Smith, who voted in favor of the project.
Staff Photo by Scott Rodgers Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young, center, counts the six votes in favor of Project Jackson. Flanking him are Vice Chairman Sandy Haskell, left, and Councilman Chuck Smith, who voted in favor of the project.

Project Jackson cleared another hurdle on Tuesday night.

Aiken County Council approved to continue its participation in the extension of the North Augusta Tax Increment Financing plan, or TIF, for 30 more years, which equals approximately $16.5 million in deferred property tax revenue of about 460 acres.

Those funds will go toward a proposed multi-sports stadium, conference center and parking structures, to be constructed on North Augusta’s riverfront, which make up Project Jackson.

The final vote was six to three – Council members Kathy Rawls, Willar Hightower and Phil Napier opposed the motion. Council members Andrew Siders, LaWana McKenzie, Sandy Haskell, Scott Singer, Chuck Smith and Chairman Ronnie Young approved the intergovernmental agreement.

The discussion between Council members was short. Several amendments were suggested but failed.

The only amendment that passed was made by Singer, which was that if the financial model of Project Jackson exceeded its projected three percent growth, in the TIF district, the County would capture the first extra one percent. Those funds would be tacked onto a rebate of $349,744 that the County will receive annually for 30 years.

That rebate stems from the original North Augusta TIF established in 1996 in which the County deferred approximately $19.5 million in property tax revenue but will get $10.5 million back after the numbers were readjusted to reflect 2012 property tax rates.

The City of North Augusta would receive funds from any growth that exceeded four percent to pay off its bonds for the project. Once the bonds are paid, 100 percent of the growth goes to the County, Singer said.

The other part of Singer’s amendment is that no matter the payoff schedule of the bonds, the County’s deferred taxes of $8.8 million shown in the financial model for the original TIF will be capped.

Rawls attempted to cut the County’s extended TIF participation of three decades to 15 years and to 25 acres rather than the full 460 acres of the TIF district, but both motions failed.

“Essentially, we’d get the same deal the school district got,” Rawls said, referring to the Aiken County School Board’s approval of its limited participation in the TIF about a month ago.

Smith said that making such amendments would disrupt the City of North Augusta’s project plans.

Napier tried once more to table the item and have it go to the voters through a referendum.

That motion also failed.

North Augusta City Administrator Todd Glover said that the next step is to take the TIF to his City Council for approval, which will be an ordinance meaning there will be three readings and a public hearing.

Once that funding mechanism is in place, the issuing of the bonds and concept plan will also require an ordinance to be approved by North Augusta City Council.

“It’s been a long process,” Glover said after the meeting. “I think it was a good process but it’s just another step, and we still have a lot of work to do.”

If the stadium is constructed, it will be the new home of the Augusta GreenJackets. The team’s president, Jeff Eiseman, said that he’s extremely excited that Council agreed to continue its participation in the TIF. He stated that he’s thrilled that his team may be part of “North Augusta’s renaissance.”

“We have confidence that this is a tremendous project,” Eiseman said. “We believe this will become one of the premier destinations in the region for tourism and entertainment.”

Eiseman said if the rest of the process runs smoothly, he hopes to see the GreenJackets playing ball in North Augusta by April 2015.

Amy Banton is the County reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the publication since May 2010. She is a native of Rustburg, Va. and a graduate of Randolph Macon Woman’s College.

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