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Economy: Port task force revives with funds in sight

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

The Georgetown Port Task Force will hold its first meeting in almost two years Wednesday at 4 p.m. in County Council chambers to update the public on progress being made to dredge the harbor and bring new business to the county.

“The state, federal and local funding is getting really close to fruition,” said Bill Crowther, executive director of the Georgetown County Alliance for Economic Development. “This is more or less an informational session for the public to bring them up to date on where things stand.”

Tim Tilley is chairman of the task force. Other members are Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill, state Sen. Ray Cleary, state Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, state Rep. Carl Anderson, Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville, County Administrator Sel Hemingway, Vida Miller, Jim Jerow and county economic development director Brian Tucker. The task force agenda for Wednesday calls for Tilley to make opening remarks and updates from McGill, Cleary and Hemingway.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice said during a “Coffee With The Congressman” visit in Litchfield this week that he expects to hear about funding within 60 days. Dredging Georgetown Harbor has been one of Rice’s goals since his election to represent in the 7th Congressional District in 2012. He said he was successful in getting language in a bill to give small ports like Georgetown access to the $1.8 billion Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Rice’s version included a provision to allocate 10 percent of Trust Fund expenditures for two years for improvements at ports handling less than a million tons of cargo annually.

“We still have to make our case,” he said. The best thing going for Georgetown is that the state and the S.C. Ports Authority have pledged $20 million for dredging and Georgetown County voters will decide on a sales tax referendum that will put $6 million more toward the project. “The secretary seemed very impressed,” Rice said. “They said they would give me an answer within 30 to 60 days. Hopefully, we’ll be hearing about that real soon.”

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