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Port of Georgetown: No funds for dredging in capital plan

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County Council members got their first look at the county’s Capital Improvement Plan for the next three fiscal years Tuesday and found no funds earmarked for dredging Georgetown’s port.

The council approved second reading of an ordinance for the issuance and sale of $26 million in bonds to finance capital improvements.

A $5.5 million expenditure as the county’s portion to dredge the harbor to entice more ship traffic at the port was the top spending priority in a referendum last year to enact an additional 1-cent sales tax in the county. Other capital projects for recreation, libraries, fire stations and road paving brought proposed collections over the seven-year life of the penny sales tax to over $40 million. Voters rejected the proposal, and dredging proponents vowed to find other means of funding the county’s portion in order to get state and federal funding.

Council Member Ron Charlton said there is latitude to make changes in the Capital Improvement Program, and he would propose taking dredging funds from the areas of transportation or economic development.

“Back when we put this information together,” Charlton said Wednesday, “dredging was not an issue. It’s a seven- to 10-year plan, and who knew the economy was going to be where it is?”

Council Member Bob Anderson said he planned to address port dredging in the Capital Improvement Plan but wanted to think about it further.

Port dredging was listed among the county’s goals during the council’s strategic planning session Wednesday with Bill Thomes and Adrian Moody from the South Carolina Institute of Public Service and Policy Research at the University of South Carolina.

Seeing ships at a dredged Georgetown port tied in with another transportation goal of a four-lane Highway 521 reaching Interstate 95.

County Administrator Sel Hemingway said much of the money in the Capital Improvement Program has restrictions on how it can be spent. Bond funds, grants, road user fees, accommodations and hospitality taxes, as they relate to capital improvements, are in that category.

With most of its parks and recreation facilities either completed or nearing completion, the Waccamaw Neck will draw funding for a new $3.8 million library branch in 2013-15 and around $11 million in road improvements, including: Petigru Drive to Aspen Loop, $940,500 in 2014; Petigru-Waverly realignment, $370,000 in 2014 and $120,000 in 2015; Parkersville Extension from Baskervill to Gilman, $1.31 million in 2014; connecting Old Kings Highway and Wesley Road, $3.5 million in 2016; connecting Beaumont Drive to Petigru Drive, $2.14 million in 2016; and bikeway improvements, $500,000 in 2014.

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