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Longtime Greenwood development panelist keeps seat

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Greenwood will keep a longtime redevelopment commission member who will help make decisions about spending up to $12 million in tax dollars on upcoming projects, including a pool and city hall renovations.

The Greenwood City Council approved keeping the last remaining original redevelopment commission member after discussing making changes. The city board has gotten three new members in the past year and been asked to pay for a growing number of city initiatives.

The council had considered replacing Garnet Vaughan because of the new direction the board has been taking. Council members also had talked about the possibility of putting a second council member on the board to have more say over how tens of millions of tax dollars are spent but decided they already had enough input.

The redevelopment commission oversees spending of money collected in special taxing districts that traditionally have gone toward road and other infrastructure projects aimed at luring new development. Over the past year, the city board has approved spending the tax money on a wider array of uses, including a $10 million aquatic center and office renovations in a new city building a few blocks south of the current one. Council and redevelopment commission member Mike Campbell said infrastructure projects had been the focus in the past, but that there recently had been an expanded use of that money that

signaled a change in direction for the city.

Council members asked Vaughan if she supported the new direction before agreeing to reappoint her.

Vaughan said the city board should not be afraid to pursue a growing variety of projects but must do so cautiously because of the responsibility that comes with managing tens of millions of tax dollars.

“What we’re really experiencing is a change in the life cycle of the redevelopment commission,” she said.

The council voted 7-1 Monday to appoint Vaughan to another one-year term on the board.

Council member Thom Hord voted against retaining her after saying that the board needed a change and that the current commission members took too much time considering and vetting many projects. Board members are paid $50 per meeting.

The redevelopment commission decides how to spend money collected in the city’s tax-increment financing districts, which set aside most of the property tax dollars from new development and increased property values on the east side and around Greenwood Park Mall.

That money is channeled into road and other infrastructure projects in those areas. Schools, libraries and other local governments don’t get those tax dollars.

Greenwood’s redevelopment commission has funded projects to widen Graham Road, expand Emerson Avenue and rebuild Fry Road near the mall.

Three new members have been appointed to the five-member board in the past year.

Board member Gail Richards has served for about five years, but Vaughan is the only original member left after former commission president R. Lee Money was replaced with council member Mike Campbell.

Council member Ron Bates said some continuity was needed to give the board some historical perspective.

Vaughan wanted to stay on the board and bring her business experience, including management positions with the mall and the Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.

As a board member, she tries to gather the information needed about projects, to be cost-conscious and to think about what would benefit the community over the long term, she said.

“I know there are different types of decision-makers,” she said. “Some are more fast and furious, while others are more methodical and risk-averse, while others want every best new thing for the city. But we’re not deciding for the short term. We’re looking for the long term, for a pool that would likely last another 50 years, for bonds that will take 20 years to pay off.”

Vaughan said redevelopment commission members should take their time evaluating projects since most are complex and cost millions of dollars. But the board also should not be immobile or overly conservative when funding new projects, and that it should be brave about exploring new territory.

“We must do it cautiously and thoroughly,” she said. “We must do it right.”

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