- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 13, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Not everyone is excited about the city of Columbia’s $195,000 grant to turn the Statehouse grounds into South Carolina’s “Front Porch.”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded the money to the city to hold special events on the Statehouse grounds.

But an official says the city failed to get state approval for the idea, The Post and Courier of Charleston (https://bit.ly/2s6cEkS) reported.

The city’s proposal would create a temporary park called “The State’s Front Porch” with cafes, hammocks, putting greens, beach chairs and umbrellas, and pingpong tables at various times over the coming year.

The South Carolina Department of Administration is concerned the city cannot create such a venue while maintaining what it calls “the appropriate decorum, aesthetic or level of dignity required for the Statehouse grounds.” The agency is responsible for the grounds that have seven buildings and 31 monuments and markers.

Director Marcia Adams wrote Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin last month and pointed out that the city’s grant application listed the state as a partner without getting state approval.

“Imagine a welcoming and inviting entrance that is more than a walkway or place for rallies, protests and celebrations,” Benjamin wrote Gov. Henry McMaster earlier this month. The city would monitor events to prevent damage to the grounds, Benjamin wrote.

Columbia wants to hold activities such as outdoor meetings and pop-up movie nights, twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Benjamin said.

Benjamin told the newspaper he met with McMaster last week and the governor was receptive.

Gubernatorial spokesman Brian Symmes said McMaster did not endorse the project and told the mayor he would have to get state approval.

The administration department said the city’s request would need legislative approval.

The Statehouse grounds are often used for rallies and demonstrations. The administration department said 237 events were reserved for the grounds last year.

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Information from: The Post and Courier, https://www.postandcourier.com

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