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Sandy Island: Agency says ferry needs county funds
By Jason Lesley
Coast RTA officials told residents of Sandy Island Saturday they will do all they can to establish ferry service for them, but if Georgetown County won’t provide matching funds the project will die.
Felicia Beaty of Coast RTA reviewed the history of efforts to establish ferry service to Sandy Island, years before three people drowned during a storm in 2009 on their way home across the Waccamaw River. Ironically, last week’s meeting with island residents and the media had to be postponed after wind and rain made river passage unsafe.
Beaty said the transportation authority is attempting to get a grant for a 26-passenger pontoon boat costing $163,000. She said Coast RTA would need $60,000 in matching funds and would turn to the county for help. She said Coast would also seek a grant for dock improvements that will require a $50,000 match. Her proposal did not include the cost of operations, fuel, maintenance or insurance.
“Our involvement in this project is solely dependent on our ability to obtain matching funds,” Beaty said. “We don’t have that extra pile of money. That’s why we have to meet with Georgetown County officials and the schools to see if there is any chance to partner with one another to obtain funds. If we are not able to obtain those funds it will probably be the end of our journey in the project. We’re going to try. That’s all I can tell you.”
Beaty said her cost figures were out of date along with information from a 2009 survey that included 75 percent of Sandy Island residents favoring public ferry service as long as there were stipulations about riders. “There are no stipulations when it comes to public transportation,” Beaty said. “It’s open to all.”
Charles Pyatt, who is retired from the U.S. Army and the post office and ferries island residents for free in his personal pontoon boat, said Sandy Island residents would be willing to operate the public ferry and transport school children to the landing. “Just buy the boat,” he said. “Let us do the operation. Combine it with the school boat funds. If we can get it started, we can do something.”
Island residents said Saturday’s session was another empty promise, like the failed efforts to get the Hokes Bluff Ferry from Alabama and talk of building bridges. “We had our hopes built up today, said the Rev. George Weathers. “We was expecting good news. The way I’m looking at it now we are back to square one, and it don’t look good for the ferry service to Sandy Island.”
Pyatt said he had done some research and found an acceptable pontoon boat for $80,000. “I’m still hoping and praying that with the county and the RTA we can at least get some type of better transportation over here,” he said. “Something needs to happen. It’s a whole lot better walking off a pontoon than trying to get off a little boat. Hopefully, this time we are going to be pushing even if we have to take a trip to the governor’s office.”