Emotions about shuttered Georgetown steel mill site come out during community meeting

Emotions about shuttered Georgetown steel mill site come out during community meeting

GEORGETOWN, SC (WMBF) - City and county leaders in the Georgetown area are hearing what the community wants for the future of the shuttered steel mill site.

The majority of those who asked questions and spoke up at Thursday night's community meeting were in favor of reopening the steel mill site rather than redevelopment.

"The ULI plan, to me, that plan doesn't spoil," one man said. "If the steel mill opens up and runs another five, six, seven years, you still have the ULI plan intact. I say give it another shot."

Georgetown County Economic Development Director Brian Tucker first discussed the Urban Land Institute study done back in September, which concluded a steel mill isn't the best use for the property and instead suggested light manufacturing, public spaces and higher education opportunities.

"What they've recommended is transitioning from a heavy industrial site that produces steel to a mixed use," Mayor Jack Scoville said.

After the presentation on the ULI's findings, people were separated into groups to come up with questions.

Tucker and the city administrator then went around the room answering them.

"What is the economic impact of the development of that property 20 years down the road versus that steel mill becoming profitable again next week and opening up two months from now and starting up bringing millions into this economy right now?" a man asked.

Tucker told the audience the city wasn't responsible for shutting down the steel mill site and the decision about the future of the site is market driven.

"How long do we want to sit before we try to do something that's in the best interest of this community?" he said.

People in the audience continuously shouted their thoughts and interrupted the speakers to vent their frustration about the steel mill site being considered for something other than a steel mill. One man was asked to leave.

"We want something left that's better than what we had and can keep your future grandkids around here," said Paul Gardner, city administrator.

Scoville said creating jobs is a priority.

"City council, I think I can speak for them, they're dedicated to ensuring there's a significant job component for any redevelopment that goes on the site," he said.

However, people were doubtful of the idea of bringing in jobs that would be as good as those that the steel mill provided.

"We still have employees getting paid for ArcelorMittal," a man said. "We still have employees with insurance coverage a year and a half later still from ArcelorMittal. What kind of jobs do you all believe you all can you bring here to replace that?"

James Sanderson, president for United Steelworkers Local 7898, spoke up during the meeting saying the union has signed a contract with a new company.

Scoville said the city hasn't heard any inquiries into reopening the steel mill site.

Some people weren't able to get into Thursday's meeting because it was too full, but there are still two more meetings left. One is scheduled for March 6 at the Howard Center and another for March 7 at Duncan United Methodist Church. Both start at 6 p.m. and Gardner said they'll have more space to accommodate larger crowds.

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