THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Highway 17: Panel cuts back funding for landscape projects
Just how much is maintaining and expanding the landscaping on Highway 17’s median along the Waccamaw Neck worth?
Members of the Georgetown County Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee recommended reducing the requests from the Litchfield Beautification Foundation and the Pawleys Island Highway Beautification Program last week to help balance spending on tourism related projects with available funds.
The committee had more than $100,000 in requests from four groups for the landscaped median, taking about 14 percent of the funds available. The committee recommended Garden City Beach Community Association get its full request, $14,220, for mowing, trimming and trash pickup on the Georgetown County portion of the entrance to Garden City Beach.
It also recommended Murrells Inlet 2020 get its requested $16,934 for a 3.6-mile segment of the median between Highway 707 and South Wesley Road. Murrells Inlet 2020 plans to raise $5,500 from businesses and supporters.
The panel recommended not funding a request for $15,591 from the Pawleys Island Beautification Program for new landscaping while granting $21,030 for maintenance. It reduced Litchfield Beautification Foundation’s request for maintenance on its main 3.5-mile segment from $25,000 to $16,104 and granted the full $7,500 to maintain a .3-mile portion south of Brookgreen Gardens.
The Pawleys Island group’s treasurer Judy Jarvis said some of the new median plantings could be done with contingency funds. President Leo Harootyan reminded the committee that his group will not take responsibility for new landscaping in the median between Waverly and Martin Luther King roads without assurances of funding.
Litchfield Beautification Foundation treasurer Ken Dewell said the group planned to raise $83,000, and its accommodations tax request of $25,000 filled out the annual budget. The group sets aside money each year for its contingency fund to replace the median’s landscaping after a hurricane. “It would hurt us,” Dewell said when asked what would happen if their request were rejected outright. President Tom Leis said it was unfair to penalize Litchfield Beautification Foundation for having a reserve. The group’s vice president, Ron Eaglin, said he didn’t know that the board would agree to use its reserves for maintenance. “This sets a precedent: Do not plan for the future,” he said. “When catastrophe occurs we’ll be at zero.”
Dewell said maintaining the reserve is important enough to consider reducing maintenance by 25 percent. Accommodations Tax Committee Member Bill Renault said it was frightening to think that the Litchfield median would not be maintained at its present level.
The committee recommended two full requests for collecting garbage during tourist season. Georgetown Parks and Recreation received the panel’s approval for $57,254, and Litchfield Beach Property Owners Association got $56,910. The committee granted the Willbrook Road Maintenance District $30,000 to repave its all-purpose path. Committee members asked about turning the path over to the county for maintenance, and Parks and Recreation Director Beth Goodale said golf carts would not be allowed on it as part of the Bike the Neck trail.
The committee recommended $6,600 to the Garden City Community Association to pay for street lights. The committee reduced a request from the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office for $104,452 to pay salaries and benefits for two deputies by $8,000 and a request of $20,850 from Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire District for a jet ski, sled and trailer by $12,850. It denied requests from the Friends of the Kaminski House Museum for $9,500 and Georgetown High School Boys Basketball Boosters for $2,737.
The committee recommended $295,000 to the Tourism Management Committee for marketing the county.