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Council Talks Cost Savings For New Center

Walterboro City Council sat around a large table Tuesday evening discussing ways to build – and fund – the city’s newest project.

The Discovery Center will be constructed inside the former and vacant Glover Motors Building, which is located at the end of Hampton Street across from the Colleton County Courthouse. The building sits alongside a public parking lot known as the “county parking lot.” Recently, the Colleton County Council voted to sell this parking lot to the city for $100,000. This parking lot will be used as part of the new Discovery Center.

According to plans presented to city council, the center will be the headquarters for the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary, a more than 800-acre natural swamp that was formerly called the Great Swamp Sanctuary. The center will house live and static (taxidermy) animals that are native to the area. The center will also have educational information on the area and will serve as a tourist attraction for the sanctuary. Information presented to council on Tuesday shows the incoming center also having a catering kitchen, public restrooms, interactive displays, and a potential outdoor amphitheater. A stage is also included in the preliminary plans: this is to help accommodate the Walterboro Rice Festival Committee with their Rice Festival dances.

In addition to seeing preliminary plans on the center, council and city officials also discussed potential costs of having the center staffed. Two options were presented to council for their consideration. One option is to have a separate staff for the center. This comes at a cost of an estimated $179,000. The second option involves merging some of the city’s tourism department and city parks department to help staff the center. This would only cost an additional $42,000 a year, which includes janitorial costs, maintenance and utilities.

Using the city’s existing two departments would still keep the city’s Welcome Center operating separately, according to Hank Amundson, Walterboro’s assistant manager. Amundson says the Discovery Center would also use volunteers to help man the front desk so that the public could walk in and tour the center. These self-guided tours would be in addition to scheduled school or tourist tours.

Amundson said the city’s parks and tourism departments have been touring different centers in the greater Lowcountry who have a wildlife center such as the one Walterboro will have. He said the city’s leaders are also speaking with leaders at the S.C. Artisans Center and the Colleton Commercial Kitchen. “Based on what we see there, the traffic is already there,” said Amundson, referring to tourists and residents who use the museum and artisans center.

The entire project is estimated to cost about $1.5 million. This will be funded through a mixture of grant money and funds from the city’s annual Accommodation Tax Fund and its Hospitality Tax Fund, according to information provided by city Manager Jeff Molinari. Walterboro City Council took no action Tuesday evening on the information presented to them.

Heather Walters (1474 Posts)