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Capital projects: Operating costs prompt county to scale back vision

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County will focus on completing the final projects in its Capital Improvement Plan before it begins to look at future needs, County Council members decided during a workshop this week.

Council members followed the recommendation of County Administrator Sel Hemingway regarding the plan, known as Visions, which was based on the recommendations of a citizens committee developed in two phases going back to 1998. The first $38 million in projects was completed, and Visions II identified and prioritized over $300 million in goals stretching through 2018.

Hemingway recommended council members take a shorter view when the plan winds down in two years. “Take a step back and complete the projects we have,” he said. Rather than envisioning projects for the next decade, he suggested a two- to three-year window extending to 2020 or 2021.

Council Member Austin Beard said this was a wise approach. “There’s no sense, in my opinion, to start formulating committees and groups and getting people excited for projects we don’t feel like we have the revenue source to operate,” he said. “Let’s ride out what we’ve got here and take a second look.”

Hemingway forecast $821,000 a year that could be used for the additional operational and maintenance costs of projects to be finished in the next two years. “We never undertake a capital project,” he said, “without computing operational costs. We’ve got a lot of projects still remaining to be completed in 2017 and ’18 that are pretty heavily laden with operational and maintenance costs.”

He listed $14 million in transportation projects, the Lane Creek Community Park, recreation centers at Choppee and Andrews, tennis courts, a spec building in the county industrial park, the Howard Center in Georgetown and the relocation of the Department of Social Services as those on the books.

By delaying new work, Hemingway said, the county would have an opportunity to obtain actual revenue and growth numbers and get a clearer picture from the state legislature on property tax reform and revenue sharing.

He said county staff members could be ready by next spring to present a plan and learn what projects council members might want to reconsider.

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