ABERDEEN – Aldermen approved two high-end positions and refrained from casting votes in support of Mayor Maurice Howard’s vision for a proposed multi-purpose center during their May 2 meeting.

Carried over from the board’s April 18, the issue of who would be the city’s electric manager was answered by a 3-2 for Brian Sanders to return to the Aberdeen Electric Department for $61,500 a year with a 10-percent raise after 90 calendar days. The motion was made by Ward 4 Alderman Brunson Odom, seconded by Ward 3 Alderman David Ewing and carried by Ward 1 Alderman Alonzo Sykes. Ward 5 Alderman Jim Buffington’s motion, seconded by Ward 2 Alderwoman Lady B. Garth, to hire Richard Smith for $53,000 per year didn’t receive any other votes.

Following executive session, the board approved the hire of Fred Hodges as Aberdeen fire chief, filling the spot of Frank Gladney, who retired at the end of April. Daniel Jimenez serves as assistant fire chief.

Also after executive session, aldermen voted to hire Constance McFarland and Caleb Angle for two electric department groundsman positions.

Howard entertained a motion for the board to support a $19,000 fee for preliminary architectural plans for his proposed multi-purpose center. Garth made the motion, which didn’t receive a second before the issue was later tabled to executive session.

“It’s going to take two-and-a-half years to get the project going from the ground up, and we need to get started now. We don’t have time to waste,” Howard said.

He added $19,000 was found in an account and he is trying to secure $2.5 million in grants. The remainder of the as much as $10 million fee would either be made up through a 1-percent interest loan for 30 years through Three Rivers Planning and Development District or a bond issue, according to Howard.

“This is going to be good for the children; they’ll have a place to swim. This is going to make money with the AAU basketball teams having three courts in one facility. These things make up to $20,000, $30,000 per tournament, so it’s going to have money-making potential,” Howard said.

Ewing said he was supportive in doing something for the youth, but the price tag is the problem.

“We need to do at least five streets in each ward. Where are we going to get the money,” Ewing asked.

Howard suggested grant money for street paving with 99- and 100-percent grants being sought.

“I represent the people who live in Ward 5, and they’ve been vocal with me about the cost,” Buffington said of the complex.

Howard asked for supporters’ and opponents’ views of the multi-purpose center during citizen input. Opposition leaned toward potential increased taxes, and support rallied behind the youth.

The subject got off track with the subject of race being brought up before Sykes said the issue wasn’t color, but rather a $10 million building.

No action was taken on the matter following executive session.

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