SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah City Council leaving the Cultural Arts Center as-is, moving forward and refusing to make any changes to the project after the new mayor and aldermen claim they conducted their own research.
This also comes on the heels of WTOC's months-long investigation about how the city is inefficiently spending $24 million on a facility that the local arts community is against.
We were blindsided by this news because we received a tip Wednesday that council members were actually going to postpone this project, but strangely that all changed in less than 24 hours.
"There's not a need to postpone it because it's set. They've already got the architect. They've already got the design. People voted on it. If they didn't want it they wouldn't have voted on it," said Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach.
"But do people know that's what they were voting on 17 years ago," asked WTOC.
"Well, I pulled up the old stuff and what I saw was that they were replacing what space was over there off of Henry Street. It had nothing to do with a symphony hall," replied Mayor DeLoach.
"Is that what it said though on the ballot," asked WTOC.
"I cannot tell you what it said because it was in the City of Savannah and I didn't vote on it when the City of Savannah actually approved," said Mayor DeLoach.
Don't let the mayor fool you. In a memo we obtained that was sent out to the entire city council Wednesday, it outlines the specific wording that was on the ballot in 2003, 2006 and 2013 when voters approved the SPLOST funds.
Each time the verbiage reads "cultural and recreational facilities."
Nowhere does it say it's specifically for replacing space.
And despite our investigation we aired last month.
"Oh, I did see that," said Mayor DeLoach.
We revealed many local arts organizations are unhappy because the City of Savannah lacks a true performance hall, and the proposed flex-space design with retractable seating is far from that.
We went to Charleston where they were able to work with their local arts organizations to design something for everyone, renovating a space much like our Civic Center and doubling their budget with a private public partnership.
"So, what do you say to these art organizations that are so frustrated," asked WTOC.
"If they want something else and we want to put in a performing arts center which was there at Charleston then we do that. We've got a SPLOST program coming up in x number of years, we do it. We look for private funds, it will be great. I love the idea," said Mayor DeLoach.
His solution, to build another performing arts center after they build this one next door to the Civic Center - a place that we already revealed in our investigation that has been deemed useless. Even the architect for the cultural arts center suggested that the building needed to be renovated
"It's the end of its useful life," said Bret Bell, City of Savannah spokesperson.
"So what about the Civic Center? It's going to waste," asked WTOC.
"I'll deal with the Civic Center when the Civic Center comes up. I'm not dealing with the Civic Center right now. We're talking about the cultural arts center. This is what this talk was about, you're not shifting it to the Civic Center," replied Mayor DeLoach.
So as they move forward with this project you paid for, your tax dollars will also continue to support this facility that the city has no plans for.
In the meantime, unhappy voters may want to do a little more investigating before they vote for a SPLOST project.
These are your tax dollars being spent. Tt's never too late to call up your alderman and voice your complaints.