The unresolved issue of veterans having their own gathering place predates this blog, but one of its early entries (on Veterans Day 2005) was on the subject. It came up again at Monday's City Council meeting.
At present, the designated space for a veterans' center at 400 East Front Street is unavailable to them due to terms of the development agreement that calls for it to be turned over once all the building's 63 condos are sold. The agreement was signed in 2007 and celebrated in an event at the old senior center, which was to be replaced by a new one on the ground floor of the condo complex.
The senior center had a one-day opening before the June 2009 primary won by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.
The developer sought a tax abatement in which condo owners would pay less than half their taxes, but it was not approved. As condo sales lagged, units were rented, meaning by 2010 the trigger of total sales for veterans' center occupancy appeared unattainable.
With an impasse caused by terms of the agreement, veterans were left with an option to meet at the new senior center, but found it galling as noted in a 2011 update on the blog. As late as last year, Veterans Center occupancy was a promise not kept.
Nonetheless, at Monday's council meeting, Robinson-Briggs (now the former mayor) dabbled in revisionism by attempting to lay the problem at the feet of Councilwoman Rebecca Williams, saying Williams blocked sale of the Armory where Robinson-Briggs proposed housing veterans in the garage. Insisting the veterans would have had a home, Robinson-Briggs pledged, "I'll go and cook free one day a week if you give them a home."
Veterans Leroy Sampson, Alex Toliver and Shawn Weeks spoke Monday about the need for a meeting place. Councilman William Reid said the administration would "look into it," but Finance Director Ron West reminded the council of the terms of the development agreement signed in 2007.
"We sold it for a dollar and we can't have a veterans' center?" Council President Bridget Rivers said.
Councilwoman Gloria Taylor said she would volunteer to work on the issue.