Lawmakers want access to documents for York Co. museums project

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Lawmakers want access to documents for York Co. museums project

Eight state legislators are asking leaders of York County’s museums to open up about an abandoned deal to build a new county museum along the Catawba River in Fort Mill.

A signed statement urges the museums’ leadership to release any documents related to the organizations formed, partnerships made and money spent on a planned development whose proceeds would have paid for the new museum.

Members of York County Council, some museum commissioners, and state Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, have already publicly requested more information.

Now state leaders are pledging their support for the York County Council in its effort to find out more, said Norman and state Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill.

“The residents of York County and those who support the museum need to know answers,” Simrill said. “Every time someone asks a question, instead of leading to answers, it leads to more questions.”

“All of that needs to be brought into the sunshine,” he said.

With Norman and Simrill, state lawmakers who signed the statement were Sens. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, and Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, and Reps. Tommy Pope, R-York, Dennis Moss, R-Gaffney, Deborah Long, R-Indian Land, and Greg Delleney, R-Chester.

The statement urges museum leadership to fulfill the request “to maintain the public trust and confidence of the organization.”

The museums’ long-term success depends solely on “the taxpayers, volunteers and donors who have steadfastly given on their time, talent, and financial resources in hopes of securing the future viability of the museum,” it reads.

In 1998, 400 acres along the Catawba River and bordered by Interstate 77 and Sutton Road in Fort Mill were donated to the foundation.

In 2006, the Culture and Heritage Foundation struck a deal with a developer to build a mixed-use community along the river in Fort Mill on 330 acres, saving the remaining land for the new museum site.

The project collapsed because of the economy, museum and foundation leaders claim. Now the foundation and a subsidiary it created to manage the deal owe $3.78 million to a partner who exited the project.

Pope has noticed a “general concern” in the community about what happened in the deal. The issue has had a divisive effect, he said.

He’s ready to see the issue addressed.

“If there is not an issue, then let’s just have full disclosure,” he said. “If it ends up being a bad business deal and that’s all, let’s recognize it for what it is and move on.”

The Culture and Heritage Foundation has a meeting scheduled later this month to discuss how to proceed, said Carol Maroska, president of the foundation.

“As stated before, I will take direction from the full Trustee board at our meeting on April 26th; however, my sense is that we are all very motivated to providing additional information,” Maroska wrote in an email to The Herald.

Courtesy of The Herald