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City considers panel revamp

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Greenwood is considering a further shake-up of a board that controls millions of dollars in spending on road work and other projects.

City council members are asking for applications from residents to replace a Greenwood Redevelopment Commission member who has served on the board since it was started about 15 years ago. The council is weighing whether to appoint someone new to fill commission member Garnet Vaughan’s seat but has backed off a plan to put a second city council member on the board.

The council also could decide to reappoint Vaughan, who owns Winchester Place, a special events venue in Old Town Greenwood.

Council member Thom Hord withdrew a request for the council to appoint him to the seat but called for a change on the commission, which recently was asked to pay for a wider variety of projects, including a $10 million aquatic center. The city had developed a reputation for talking about projects for years without ever getting them done, and the commission didn’t do things in a timely fashion, Hord said.

The council voted 8-1 Monday to postpone the board appointment until its Jan. 21 meeting, so that residents would have time to apply for the position. Council member Linda Gibson voted against the proposal, saying she thought enough change already took place four months ago when former commission president R. Lee Money, who also served on the board for 15 years, was replaced with council member Mike Campbell.

Vaughan has asked to remain on the board, citing her experience as a former marketing director of the Greenwood Park Mall, as the former president of the Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce and with attracting businesses to the National Harbor development in Washington, D.C. She said she was saddened by the call for change and thought the board tried to protect taxpayers’ interests through careful deliberation.

“One of the things I’ve heard is that since we have all those zeros in the bank account, we should do due diligence,” she said. “I’d rather take our time to make a good decision slowly rather than make no decision quickly or a poor decision really fast.”

The redevelopment commission oversees tax-increment financing districts around the mall and on the city’s east side. The districts collect most of the property tax dollars from new development in those areas and channel them back into road and other infrastructure projects that are aimed at luring new development. Schools, libraries and other local governments don’t get most of that money.

Over the past five years, the tax districts have generated more than $24 million in tax revenue. Greenwood has spent the money on a variety of projects, including the Emerson Avenue expansion, the Graham Road widening and the planned new Interstate 65 interchange.

The city also recently started finding new uses for that money, including replacing police cars and tearing down an unused water tower. The redevelopment commission has agreed to spend nearly $12 million on projects that include renovating a hangar at the Greenwood Municipal Airport and building a new aquatic center.

Late last year, Hord asked to be appointed to the seat that Vaughan holds, arguing that the council should have more say over how such a large amount of tax dollars is spent. He withdrew from consideration Monday, saying that several people had criticized the plans and his motives.

Resident Harry DePledge spoke out about the proposal at Monday’s meeting, saying that the same people already serve on too many boards and that more people should be given the opportunity to serve and contribute ideas. The council already has enough say over the city’s decisions, and the boards should be given independence, he said.

Campbell said the council wanted to have more influence over major projects and such a large chunk of the city’s finances. Having a member on the board also keeps the council more up-to-date, he said.

After doing more research, Hord said that he wasn’t sure what the pros were to having a council member on the board.

Hord believed the council should appoint a new member to the redevelopment commission, whether that was a council member or a resident.

“I want the city run in a way that makes all of us shine,” he said. “I believe change needs to take place.”

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