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Highway 17: Season grows short for DOT median maintenance

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

There is growing concern about the fate of landscape plants in the new median through the Pawleys Island business district once the state maintenance contract expires at the end of the year. The Pawleys Island Highway Beautification Committee has told Georgetown County it won’t take responsibility for the median without an assurance of funds.

“People are concerned that it won’t be maintained,” said Tom Stickler, president of the Waccamaw Neck Council of Property Owners Associations. The council bumped its annual contribution to the Pawleys beautification effort to $1,000 as a show of support. The council should also lobby the county to fund ongoing maintenance, Stickler said. “Otherwise it’s going to look terrible.”

That’s the message the beautification committee has been sending since the project began last year to replace the two-way left-turn lane along 1.9 miles of Highway 17 with a raised median. “Who’s going to take responsibility for the new median is kind of up in the air,” said Leo Harootyan, who chairs the committee. “We as a committee have declined to take responsibility.”

The committee has an estimated annual cost of $20,000 from Waccamaw Landscaping, which now maintains the median for the state Department of Transportation. It decided not to seek a county accommodations tax grant for the median because there is no guarantee of future funds. “We get most of our money from A-tax. We’re running very tight,” Harootyan said.

It costs the committee $29,000 a year to maintain the landscaping it installed on Highway 17 from the South Causeway to Allston Plantation. “Our priority is to take care of the south end,” Harootyan said.

Bob Hesterfer, a Ricefields resident and member of the Waccamaw POA Council board, proposed the group raise its contribution to the Pawleys Island Highway Beautification Committee. “I hope that will encourage other donors,” he said.

Harootyan said he was pleased with the additional funds, but added that the committee also wants to expand participation. It has five board members who all live in Pawleys Plantation. It wants to get members from the business community, but hasn’t found anyone who is interested.

Traffic on the south end of Highway 17 has been the focus of attention from the Waccamaw POA Council. It lobbied the county and DOT to extend the 45 mph zone and to install additional speed limit signs. It hasn’t been able to persuade DOT to accept money to put up a flashing sign at the transition from the 60 mph to the 45 mph zone. Board members hope that may change once Coastal Montessori Charter School opens at Highway 17 and Old Plantation Drive later this year.

POA council members also believe more enforcement is needed, particularly from the county sheriff’s office. The board plans to invite Sheriff Lane Cribb and the two candidates challenging him for re-election, Democrat Darryel Carr and Birt Adams of the Independence Party, to speak at its annual meeting in October.

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