Columbia's 'front porch' plan to transform State House grounds likely on life support

Columbia's 'front porch' plan to transform State House grounds likely on life support

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A plan to use $195,000 in grant money rewarded to the City of Columbia to transform the State House grounds into a fun-filled "front porch" for state visitors has likely reached a serious road block.

According to an e-mail obtained by WIS, Sen. Harvey Peeler, a ranking member on the State House Committee, said he supports the state Department of Administration's decision to halt the plan.

Administration Department officials said that the plan creates "significant concerns" about insurance, liability, maintenance and security issues.

The City of Columbia won the grant from the Knight Foundation as part of the Knight Cities Challenge. The City submitted their proposal to the group and received the grant along with 32 other U.S. cities.

However, according to state government officials, the city applied for the grant and listed the State of South Carolina as a partner without coordination with or approval from state officials.

"Further, the grant application includes a State in-kind contribution in the form of $35,000 worth of salaries from the Department of Administration staff to secure, remove and reinstall various pieces of infrastructure multiple times per week," Department of Administration executive director Marcia Adams wrote in a letter to Mayor Steve Benjamin. "Admin did not agree to this nor does it have sufficient staff to provide this in-kind contribution."

The plan would spend the $195,000 grant on "Adirondack chairs, beach chairs and umbrellas, café and work tables, joggling boards, stair squares, and hammocks, as well as giant games such as chess, corn hole, ping pong, tumble tower, and putting greens."

Benjamin responded to the letter with a letter of his own to Gov. Henry McMaster.

"Imagine a place where residents and constituents can engage with each other and with their elected officials in a relaxed setting," Benjamin wrote. "Imagine a State House that citizens embrace as their own, the front porch to their state."

With Peeler's support to Administration Department officials, the city's plan is likely on life support.

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