As the National Medal of Honor Museum goes into its final community design meeting on Tuesday, Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie is offering an alternative that he said could cut costs in half "and assure the project's success."
Haynie, a vocal critic of the current design, made his offer during a Friday board meeting of the Patriots Point Development Authority. The state agency oversees Patriot Point and will lease the land near the Yorktown for the proposed $125 million museum.
Haynie, who as mayor has a seat on the development authority's board, said he expected National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation CEO Joe Daniels to scrap the old design, which the town's Planning Commission overwhelmingly rejected in January, and start over.
Instead, Daniels, who took over the leadership of the foundation the first of April, retained architect Moshe Safdie to come up with two variations of the original design for input at three community forums.
Haynie urged Daniels to delay the final forum and give the town a chance to come up with a new design that he said would cost half as much and "ensure the project's success." Daniels said he plans to hold the forum as planned but is willing to delay any further action for 30 days or so to give the mayor a chance to make good on his offer. He sent Town Council an email to that effect.
"If there is something that could help that project, we want to listen,” he said.
Asked Monday what kind of plan he had in mind, Haynie said he wasn't actually offering the town's services but was calling for a collaborative effort.
"I’m extremely hopeful that all stakeholders in this will agree to work on a solution-oriented path forward that will put the ugly debate about the unacceptable building behind us," he said in an email. “I am pleased that the chairman of the Patriots Point Development Authority and the Development Committee chairman will be meeting Wednesday with board members from the museum to explore solutions."
Several board members asked Daniels why he didn’t drop the original design and start over in the first place. He said the foundation asked Safdie to come up with variations of the original design because about 20,000 donors had already given to the project based on the original design, which was unveiled in 2015.
Despite warnings from several board members that this design is likely doomed to failure, Daniels said he’s expecting a majority vote on the nine-member Town Council despite the vocal opposition of a few members. He said he at least wants to give it a chance.
The Patriots Point board would have to decide whether to extend the lease if the foundation misses deadlines for moving a section of Patriots Point Boulevard by Nov. 30 and for starting construction by July 2020. An extension would require sending it back to the state's Fiscal Accountability Authority for approval. A board member reminded Daniels there's no guarantee the board would be willing to do that.
Haynie pointed out that the town has contributed $1.4 million to the road project and questioned whether Daniels can meet the deadline. Daniels assured the board he will have the $5 million or so the foundation needs for the road by the deadline.
After the meeting, Daniels said he plans to use $4 million from a $5 million state grant to move the road, and the foundation will raise the other $1 million or so in donations.
Haynie said Sunday in a social media posting that the state money can't be used to move the road. He said in an email Monday that's what he's always understood and this was the first he's heard otherwise.
Daniels said his research found that the grant terms allow the money to be used for the road, since funds are designated for infrastructure as well as construction. A copy of the grant application wasn't immediately available Monday.
It's doubtful the $75 million or so that the foundation needs to raise to meet the construction deadline will be raised in time if Town Council kills the design. Daniels acknowledged that an approved design is needed to raise money. Patriots Point board chairman Ray Chandler said if the board has to renegotiate the lease at that point, he wants them to have a say in the design next time around.
The community forum for input on the current design is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Wando High School.