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Litchfield Beach: With extra funds, 4-day project nears end of 5-year journey
By Jackie R. Broach
A long-anticipated pedestrian path along Litchfield Boulevard could go out for bid in as little as 60 days now that a $45,000 contribution from the Georgetown County Transportation Committee has been approved.
That’s the best case scenario, according to Kevin Corrigan, new president of the Litchfield Beaches Property Owners Association.
“Some people have said this should be a four-day project,” he said, but the association, working in conjunction with the county, has been trying to get the path built since 2006 to make the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
The project was originally supposed to cost about $44,000 and was fully funded, but a change in requirements for projects receiving state highway funds meant the county had to turn it over to the state Department of Transportation before it could be completed. DOT made alterations to the plan that doubled the cost and the work couldn’t go out for bid until all the funding was in place.
The association asked for $60,000, which included a $15,000 contingency that DOT wanted. The committee agreed, with very little discussion, to give the project $45,000, but refused to approve the contingency.
“It sounded like a slush fund to me,” said committee member Larry Young, who made the motion for the award. “My contention was if they only need $45,000, that’s what they should get.”
If the project runs over budget, additional funds can be addressed, he added.
Paul Battaglino, Georgetown County’s capital projects coordinator, said he expects the project will come in under budget and the contingency won’t be needed.
It’s still up to DOT whether the project will move forward without the contingency, but Corrigan is optimistic.
“I think we were victorious,” he said. “We met our obligation based on the grant outline.”
After more than five years spent working on the project, the committee’s easy approval seemed anticlimactic, according to Richard Heusel, the association’s vice president.
“The irony is that after all this time it seemed like such a simple process tonight,” he said.
Corrigan gives the credit for that to Battaglino, who has worked with the association to advance the project.
Young said it was Battaglino who helped convince him to support funding the path.
“I wasn’t for it when I first came in here,” said Young, who lives in the Litchfield area. “I said we should be thinking more about paving streets in front of people’s homes.” But Battaglino convinced him the hazard along Litchfield Drive made the path worthwhile.
“It didn’t appear to be that much money in relation to the safety,” Young said.
The 420-foot-long curved, concrete path will be constructed at the end of Sportsman Canal. The route is commonly used by people walking to the beach, joggers and those going to stores and restaurants on Highway 17.
The road has a narrow grass shoulder along the canal, leading many to walk on the road instead. A blind curve keeps approaching motorists from being able to see pedestrians, and results in a lot of “near misses.”
“The shoulder continues to deteriorate and complaints continue to come in,” Corrigan said. “This isn’t a fluff project. It’s not like a crabbing dock or a sightseeing vista dock.”
The chance to have the path completed in time for summer has passed, but he hopes the project can be completed in the fall.