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Pawleys Island: Underground wire plan wins owners’s support

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Property owners on Pawleys Island have given overwhelming support to a $4.2 million project to move electric and cable television lines underground. Sixty percent of the owners in the project area returned postcard ballots in an advisory referendum and 80 percent of those were in favor.

“I was a little surprised and very gratified by the response,” Mayor Bill Otis said.

The project will cost the owners of 415 properties $350 a year over 10 years. They will also have to pay for new connections between the underground utilities and their houses. The town will fund $2.5 million and it will be responsible for any funds that go unpaid by property owners.

Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric utility, will manage the project and the town hopes the first phase can begin this fall. That portion of the project will install a supply line along the North Causeway, creating a backup to the line that serves the island along the South Causeway. Other phases will be completed in the off-season over the next five years.

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This year’s vote was the second time Town Council has sought approval from property owners for underground utilities. Several years ago, a similar project got 64 percent approval, but council members said they were looking for 70 percent before moving forward.

Along with ballots, the town sent out a brochure to property owners explaining the costs and benefits of the project. The town still got a few questions, Otis said. “They were reasonable questions,” he added.

“There will always be people who are against some things,” Otis said. “You can be confident everybody understood and everybody gave it thought.”

He believes the 80 percent support reflects the feeling of property owners even if they didn’t return a ballot. “Statistical people would say that there’s some large percentage possibility that the result would be the same if everyone voted,” Otis said.

Even before the vote, Town Council approved $68,000 to fund engineering and right-of-way acquisition for the North Causeway portion of the project.

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