Previously pitched and voted-on plans for a commission that could, if cemented, assist the city of Aiken with investor attraction, studies and economic development were more or less inert by the time they reached the Aiken City Council's Monday work session.
Following criticisms and clarifications that night, the future of the so-called Aiken Municipal Development Commission is now in limbo. City staff and City Council will have a "clear idea of our path forward" after July 8, City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh said following the get-together and debate.
That mapping process, according to Bedenbaugh, will involve a dialogue with Aiken Corp., a nonprofit established with similar development purposes in mind.
City Council members Dick Dewar, Andrea Gregory and Lessie Price on Monday night roundly criticized the commission-forming process, which has played out over a roughly two-month period.
"And so we're a long way, I think, from where some of you want to go, and I'm not sure I would support it anyway," Dewar said. "But I need a lot more detail to even have a chance of supporting it."
"It's been messy, and it shouldn't be messy, and I go back to we're overcomplicating things," Gregory said. "You know, we're putting the cart before the horse."
"We're putting it all on the table," Price said, earlier stating she doesn't "pull any punches. Straight up."
The discussion Monday – a sometimes tense back-and-forth involving City Council, Mayor Rick Osbon and Bedenbaugh – lasted for more than 45 minutes.
Bedenbaugh and Osbon separately agreed growth is important to the city and its leaders. But, the city manager explained, the issue lies in "what the best mechanism" is to achieve that.
"It's not about business, it's about people," City Council member Ed Girardeau said. "It's about subdivisions, apartments, things. We've got a supply-and-demand problem in this city where there's nowhere for people to lease an apartment because they're all full. But we need to open the door to people and say, 'That's what we want, we want to see it happen.' And this is one way that we could get the ball rolling."
Osbon, during the discussion, said he wants a commission to be dedicated and purposeful – working with drive.
"We just need to see some progress," the mayor said.
City Council member Ed Woltz had similar things to say, specifically using the word "proactive." Gregory has said she supports a commission but wants it to be tailored to Aiken, rebuffing broader strokes.
"I think there's no doubt everyone on the council and staff, I think we know the direction we want to go in in terms of growing the city," Bedenbaugh said early in the work session.
City Council is not scheduled to meet again this month. City Council's regular meeting, which followed the work session, was short, and relatively few people attended.