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Sandy Island: Ferry benefit falls short of goal

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

A nonprofit group working to bring a car ferry to Sandy Island generated more than $5,000 with a fundraiser in Parkersville Park over Memorial Day weekend.

“It’s not as much as I had anticipated, but it was moderately successful,” said Bill Murray, an event organizer and chief financial officer for the Sandy Island Ferry Project.

The event was attended by about 400 people who helped the cause by writing checks at a donation booth, and purchasing food and items from local vendors.

“I thought maybe we would have lured some of the bikers in,” Murray said.

Memorial Day weekend marks the annual Atlantic Beach Bikefest, which attracts thousands to the coast every year. Members of the ferry project put up signs and balloons on Highway 17 hoping to get bikers to detour to the park as they passed through, but Murray said he saw a half dozen at most at the fundraiser.

“There were just so many things going on in various places over the weekend,” Murray said. “The local people had weddings and things going on, and there was a whole lot going on at Atlantic Beach and Myrtle Beach.

“In any case, we’re grateful to those who came and we know some people have donations in the mail.”

Proceeds from the fundraiser will be added to about $10,000 the group collected last month and is sitting in an account at First Federal Bank. With donations that come in this week, Murray said he is hopeful the group will be at least halfway to its $40,000 goal.

The money will be used to fund the moving of a car ferry to Georgetown County from Etowah County, Ala. The Federal Highway Administration awarded the ferry to the S.C. Department of transportation for use at Sandy Island last year, but the gift might have to be returned because of problems locating funds needed to put the boat into operation.

The ferry project group hoped to increase the likelihood of the state’s accepting the boat by putting up the money to transport it here.

But just making the landing improvements needed for cars to be loaded and unloaded from a Sandy Island ferry would cost at least another $200,000, regional transportation officials told county officials and island representatives in March. Funds for that work haven’t been identified.

Coast RTA has a $148,000 to operate a ferry, but matching funds haven’t been identified either.

Myers Rollins, Coast RTA’s general manager did not return phone calls.

Coast RTA’s board of directors in March gave the agency until the end of June to find funding.

The deadline for the ferry group’s fundraising efforts was supposed to have been June 1, but efforts will continue this month.

At their last meeting on May 25, Coast board members agreed to send a letter to Georgetown County Council Chairman Johnny Morant stating that if efforts are to continue, Coast RTA needs an indication the county will commit funding toward a ferry service.

Morant said Tuesday he has not received the letter yet. He wouldn’t say what might happen in response to the letter and when or if the matter of funding would be discussed by council.

“I don’t want to speculate prior to receiving the letter,” he said.

If the state doesn’t accept the ferry and funds raised by the ferry project group are not needed to move the boat, all donations will be returned, Murray said.

“We’re pretty much on top of who contributed what,” he said. “We’re keeping careful records and it will be my responsibility to make sure it’s returned.”

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