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County Council: Tennis complex retains tax funds

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County Parks and Recreation will keep $257,066 in accommodations tax funds approved last year to build a tennis complex in Litchfield, County Council decided this week.

Council also agreed to cut recommended funding for tourism marketing in order to support the sheriff’s beach patrol and beach maintenance projects.

The $2 million tennis facility, which includes 10 courts and a clubhouse, was held up by delays in selecting a consultant to develop site plans. The funds from the state’s 2 percent tax on short-term rentals were due to expire in June.

The recreation department asked for an extension that would give them until Dec. 24 to use the funds. The Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee recommended council let the funds expire and be used for tourism marketing.

“This particular item was not recommended for approval the first time it went through,” said Will Dieter, who chairs the advisory committee. The committee believes “the funds can be better used to help generate tax dollars by going to other projects.”

When the committee made its recommendations last month, members said it didn’t make sense to hold up that amount of money. Parks and Recreation could reapply for funds in the fall, they said.

Council Member Glen O’Connell said he understands why committee members might see it that way, but questioned how much insight they had as to where the project stands as it relates to schedule.

“It’s still a viable, strong project,” O’Connell said. “The time frame has changed, but it’s still an integral part of the [county’s capital] plan and we still want to see this happen, and see it as having economic development potential.”

The reasons for including accommodations tax money as part of funding for the project also still apply, he said.

The committee also recommended council award $213,656 of a $250,000 request from the Georgetown County Tourism Management Commission for it’s marketing efforts.

But the commission will only get $187,569, council decided. It was the only request that wasn’t fully funded.

The difference will allow requests from the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office and Parks and Recreation for beach projects to be fully funded.

The county had $436,597 in funds available for its spring grant cycle, and requests totaled $499,028.

The sheriff’s office was awarded $93,437 to continue its two-member beach patrol. That amount includes $83,000 in personnel costs. The rest is for equipment, including $10,000 to buy night vision goggles.

The advisory committee recommended $75,000 for the beach patrol, and questioned the goggles.

O’Connell said council needed to commit to fully funding the beach patrol to “make sure we have complete dedication of those deputies to that function.”

Parks and Recreation got $32,650 to clean up and maintain beach accesses at the south end of Pawleys Island and Garden City. The committee recommended it receive $25,000.

Other awards were in line with recommendations from the advisory committee.

The Garden City Beach Community Association got $5,300 to provide street lights for the Georgetown County portion of Garden City beach and $23,100 for Highway 17 maintenance.

The Litchfield Corridor Beautification Committee got $45,000 to expand its median beautification and maintenance project.

The Litchfield Beaches Property Owners Association received $49,541 for beach clean up and maintenance of beach accesses.

Council also approved extensions for two additional projects that were previously awarded funding.

The beautification committee will now have until July 13, 2011, to spend $40,000 awarded last spring for Highway 17 median beautification.

Work on the project was delayed because of S.C. Department of Transportation funding and project management changes related to matching funds.

The Rice Museum in Georgetown has until Aug. 24 to spend $75,000 on restoration of the old market building and clock tower. Those funds were awarded in the 2007 fall grant cycle.

The project was held up by delays in getting matching federal grants.

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