The old North Charleston naval hospital is a huge ugly building.
Quite honestly, it’s hard to imagine how anything can be done that fully utilizes a building that thrived as a critical lifeline to the bustling community around the former Navy base. Any reimagining will require significant financial outlay and a creative mind to harness the potential of such an imposing structure.
Instead, the concrete box touted as the “tallest building in North Charleston” in the same way people joke about the “world’s biggest ball of twine” has become a monument to government ineffectiveness, betrayal of public trust, and if that isn’t enough, a massive waste of taxpayer money.
Charleston County has tossed at least 33 million of your dollars in the world’s largest burn barrel and lit a match on this project. And there may be more fuel to the fire soon as the county debates how many more millions to spend to dispense of the monument to their failure.
Heck, at least North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey got a little return when he bought the property from the feds for $2 million and flipped it for $9.2 million, eventually landing with Charleston County where his son Elliott and city staffer Teddie Pryor have served on council for years.
“Why we haven’t been voted out (of office) — I don’t understand that,” Councilman Henry Darby told the Post and Courier last week in perhaps the most lucid and cynical remark by a politician in recent memory.
But if we’re going to just play with money, let’s take a look at a few interesting ways that the county could have spent that $33 million:
(Admittedly, we’re playing a little fast and loose here, just like the people we elected to county council. These are big ideas and are not intended to be a comprehensive list of ways we can spend this money.)
1. More new libraries like the one that the county is supposed to be building across from the naval hospital but has not yet
2. Pay raises for Charleston teachers
3. Progressive housing rental subsidies for local workers
4. Expand public health care services
5. Expand social services for poor and disadvantaged residents
6. Improve local streetscapes for disabled residents
7. Subsidize public art projects by local artists
8. Replace outdated equipment for local law enforcement
9. Re-establish CARTA routes cut by the county in the past decade
10. Increase service on the county’s most popular transit routes
11. Fund more greenbelt projects to preserve the little open land that remains in the county for public use
12. Incentivize builders to incorporate public green spaces in developments
13. Bike lanes downtown
14. Bike lanes in West Ashley
15. Bike lanes in James Island
16. Bike lanes in North Charleston
17. Bike lanes in Mt. Pleasant
18. Bike lanes in unincorporated suburban areas
19. All of the above and then more bike lanes. Why not?
20. Share the Road public education campaigns so people will start realizing that their single-commuter car isn’t the only thing on the road
21. Have Gov. Henry McMaster declare a state of emergency and build the bike-ped bridge across the Ashley River. (Backed by the city and scuttled by the county, FYI.)
22. Hire more lifeguards for local public beaches
23. Expand community-supported mentorship programs for public school students
24. Hire more mental health professionals for local schools
25. Finally figure out how we’re going to handle local recycling and expand recyclable materials
26. Storm/floodwater infrastructure
27. I-526 (Hell, spending it on something is better than nothing.)
28. Make county facilities use more renewable energy
29. Incentivize local entrepreneurs to open and expand small businesses
30. Incentivize local employers to maintain race, gender, and age diversity
31. Fund a civic engagement pilot program so that people know they should care about what Charleston County Council does
32. Increase county council pay so more local leaders will run for public office
33. Donate the money to the campaigns of all the non-incumbent local leaders who run for county council