Council Pursues Funding for Mystery Project

BLYTHEWOOD – Town Council moved its regularly scheduled Monday night meeting to Wednesday night just hours after The Voice went to press, so voting results from the meeting were not available at press time.

Council’s first action item was to be a vote on a resolution to fund “Project Booster,” the Town’s code name for what sources have told The Voice is a closely guarded plan to build a restaurant in the Town Hall park – a restaurant that will have an exclusive contract with the Town to cater events held at the Town Council’s soon to be finished Doko Manor, also located in the park. Sources close to the project who are not authorized to talk about the plans have told The Voice that the Town has applied for a $1 million grant that it hopes to use to build the restaurant building. According to sources, the Town plans to lease the building to a restaurateur out of Camden. While the restaurateur would not speak on the record about specifics of the project, he did tell The Voice last fall that he was excited about the opportunity.

Wednesday night’s resolution for funding, however, makes no mention of a restaurant, but refers to the construction of a depot building that will promote the economic development and general welfare of the Town.

The resolution, which was expected to be passed by Council, is vague, stating that the Town “desires to develop, construct and own certain infrastructure projects, including site preparation for and construction of a depot building (‘Projects’), for the exclusive purpose of aiding and promoting the economic development and general welfare of the Town.”

It also stated that the Town would like to use funds provided to Fairfield Electric Cooperative by the USDA under the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program for the “Projects,” providing the “Projects” qualify as eligible under the REDLG program.

Town Administrator John Perry told The Voice last fall that the Town planned to use the RELDG funds, provided through Fairfield Electric Cooperative, to landscape the grounds around the “Projects.”

A resolution passed by Council last August regarding the depot “Projects” in the Town Hall park, referred to the park as a Business Park (“Park”) and said the Town would like to expand the boundaries of that Business Park to include the Doko Depot “Projects.”

The idea of building a replica of the Town’s former depot came in the late 1990s when Roland Ballow was mayor and his brother-in-law, Jim McLean, was on Town Council. McLean said many times at public meetings that he would like to see the Town’s former train depot replicated in honor of his father who was the Town’s last train master. While the train depot was initially included in the plan for the proposed $10+ million Town Hall park, the depot was later scrubbed from the plan when the park ran over budget.

After Council voted to pass a resolution last August to construct a depot building in the park as part of an economic development plan for the Town, The Voice asked Mayor J. Michael Ross if Council still plans to build the depot and he replied that it does not.

The resolution to be voted on Wednesday night authorized the Town Administrator “to work in concert with Fairfield Electric Cooperative, legal counsel and such other professionals as the Town Administrator shall deem appropriate to secure funding under the REDLG program.”

Other business that was to be taken up at the meeting included second and final reading on an easement for sewer utilities for a small strip of Town Hall property having to do with a utility easement.

Council was also expected to pass second reading to rezone a 2-acre parcel on Farrow Road near Highway 21 from Limited Industrial (LI) to Community Commercial (CC) District. The property is owned by J. B. and M. L. Bishop and was previously used as a flea market. Bishop told The Voice that he plans to sell the property for recreational use.