THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES
Off the road: Capital budget for bikeways now $1 million
Bikeways will get an extra $500,000 in the next phase of Georgetown County’s capital improvement plan, which is up for approval this month. But that’s the only money due to shift among a list of projects in spite of an effort to get County Council to commit funds to renovating a rural school as a community center.
Council last month approved a master plan for bike and pedestrian paths, the first step toward seeking grant funds. At the same time, Council Member Austin Beard tried to raise the funding for those paths by shifting $500,000 from the $1 million listed in the capital plan for camping and trails. The effort stalled when Council Member Everett Carolina questioned funding for ongoing park projects as he sought to restore money to renovate the former Sampit Elementary School. That was followed by complaints from some Georgetown residents that too much money is going to projects on Waccamaw Neck.
Council addressed the capital projects last week at a workshop. Administrator Sel Hemingway went through a list of 22 projects with a total cost of $28.9 million that are proposed for the final phase of the capital plan that started in 2007, asking council members to confirm they were still valid. A $37,500 project to build two outdoor multi-purpose courts on Waccamaw Neck drew concern from Carolina that they aren’t being built in other areas, too. “I’m speaking as a representative for an area that has very little,” he said.
Hemingway said a similar facility is part of a $1.4 million track project at the former Beck School in Georgetown. Courts could also be added elsewhere, he said, and council agreed to keep the Waccamaw courts on the list.
When he got to camping and hiking trails, Hemingway told council, “A million dollars is more than we need.” He said $500,000 was enough. Moving the balance to create a $1 million bikeway fund would help leverage grants, and he said any projects funded with grants would have to come back to County Council for approval. The council agreed.
By the time the issue of the Sampit school renovation came up, the council had approved almost all the other projects except for a $2.2 million library for the Sampit and Santee communities in the southern part of the county. It would take an additional $1.8 million to renovate the old school, a building on 10 acres owned by the nonprofit St. James-Santee Health Center. The library will be built on 2 acres the county owns.
Carolina said the programs he envisions for the community center are more than the library can accommodate. Council Member John Thomas suggested that most of those programs are ones offered by the Waccamaw Library. “I really see the Waccamaw Library as a facility that operates as a community center as well,” he said.
If council agrees to a Sampit community center “council needs to be prepared for an outcry from other areas,” Council Chairman Johnny Morant said.
“I don’t see that,” Carolina said.
Morant said there is consensus on council for a Sampit library. “I don’t know there’s a consensus for the community center,” he said, but he asked if Carolina would like to delay the library while the county staff reviews both projects. The council gave the library the green light. The community center was put on hold.
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