Council supports prep school purchase of Compass property
Midland Valley Preparatory School's plans to purchase the Compass Academy property was described as a blessing, and the opportunity was deemed a “godsend.”
On Tuesday, Aiken County Council unanimously approved a support resolution of the issuance of Economic Development Revenue bonds up to $6 million to the school, which is planning to relocate to the former Compass Academy building.
Councilman Scott Singer abstained, stating his firm may bid on those bonds, and Councilman Chuck Smith was not in attendance.
The property had been the center of controversy for the past year after Jay Brooks and his companies, J. Brooks Financial and Brooks Real Estate Holdings, were accused by the state attorney general's office of illegally selling unregistered securities to fund the establishment of Compass Academy.
Jay and his wife Tracy have also been accused by the Securities Division of the attorney general's office of using those funds to buy groceries, their home, vacations and jewelry rather than investing the funds as promised.
Jay Brooks was indicted on two counts of securities fraud, one count of forgery and a violation of the Securities Act in November.
Singer pointed out that Midland Valley Prep's plans shed a positive light on such negative circumstances.
“You are turning a very bad situation into a not very bad situation for those who are involved,” Singer said.
As Attorney Tyler Smith stated, Midland Valley Prep is not seeking financing from the County but rather from the South Carolina Jobs-Economic Development Authority.
State law requires that the financing has to pass through the County, but does not obligate the County financially or legally.
Smith said the school doesn't plan to use the entire $6 million, but it will be used for acquisition of 30-acre property and a 53,000-square-foot building that's about 75 percent constructed. The funds will assist in completing the building, as well as furnishing and equipping it, Smith added.
Midland Valley Prep Executive Director Patti Strom was excited about Council's approval on Tuesday night, as the school is moving forward in the process of making its plans become a reality.
She said the school will provide a great service to the County, with its institution taking over that property.
Strom said the reason for relocation is that the enrollment of the school, which was established in 2002, has been steadily rising over the years.
In other business, a resolution to urge the Aiken County Legislative Delegation and South Carolina General Assembly to amend the state surface water withdrawal act was also approved. Currently, the bill that was introduced to the S.C. Senate in January is under review. If passed, it would require a permit, which is a bit stricter than a registration, to withdraw surface water depending on the amount the applicant is requesting.
Amy Banton is the County reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the publication since May 2010. She is a native of Rustburg, Va., and a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman's College.