By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
Photos by Michael Cyra, kiawahislandphoto.com
Seeing a white tent next to the tree of life at 4475 Betsy Kerrison Road brought back memories for some of the much-loved Rosebank Farms stand that once stood under it, but this particular shelter was there to herald changing times.
Fluorescent clouds overhead boded well for the Town of Kiawah Island’s municipal center groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, May 3, but the grey and purple ones on the horizon did not.
It had been raining on and off, but was off again as the noon starting time approached. Gold shovels festooned with purple ribbons had been nosed far enough into a ridge of mounded dirt to remain upright without assistance.
The moment was over two years in the making. Purchase of the tract in late 2014 took many residents by surprise, but the town’s 2014 Strategic Objectives had outlined a desire to: “Purchase property that will meet future town needs, which may include additional parking, existing building expansion, town hall annex or a new municipal center.” However, the $2 million dollars spent on the land and subsequent approval of another $9.25 million for the building itself generated a storm of public comments, scrutiny and even a lawsuit over the ensuing 20 or so months.
As Mayor Charles Lipuma stepped to the microphone to celebrate this milestone
of the project, fat raindrops began falling horizontally, and the high winds, lightning and thunder made hearing difficult as Lipuma soldiered on, thanking everyone who had toiled to move the project forward. The audience, comprised of Municipal Center committee members, most of TOKI’s staff, vendors, contractors and residents, endeavoured to stay dry under the shelter.
Councilmember John Labriola spoke next. Chair of the original MC committee, hailed by many as a much needed model of openness, Labriola was particularly effusive in his praise of the staff. He credited them with keeping things running during the inclement times of the last several years. Soon the rain gave way to bright sunshine and attendees were able to enjoy the light hors d’oeuvres put on for the occasion.
“You can say it rained on our party,” the mayor told The Island Connection. “But we had it anyway!” With the groundbreaking complete, construction on the project will begin in earnest. Thomas Construction Group is the general contractor, the architect is LS3P. The building is scheduled for completion in May 2017 and will include council chambers, municipal court, Visitors Bureau space, public meeting space and customer service areas for the public.
As a reminder of a shared and honored past, just as the celebration was breaking up, someone pulled into the busy parking lot and asked “Is there still a farm stand here?”