020818 Pawleys Island: Town looks for state help with roads and drains
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Flooding in front of Town Hall in 2015. The building was flooded in a storm a year later.

Pawleys Island: Town looks for state help with roads and drains

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Pawleys Island residents know they can’t hold back the rain and tide, but they would at least like to get the sand out of the storm drains.

“To truly solve these problems, this is what we need to do,” said Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri at the inaugural meeting of a committee that will look at flooding and road issues in the town.

While acknowledging that living on a barrier island means living with tides, Mayor Jimmy Braswell said “we’ve had major flooding problems and they seem to do nothing but get worse.”

Water no longer drains after the highest tides, sometimes called king tides, or after heavy rains. After a storm last weekend, “there was not a 100-foot section of any road on Pawleys that didn’t have major puddles,” Braswell said.

Fabbri has talked with the state Department of Transportation maintenance office in Georgetown about road and drainage projects on the island. “This is the one area where I feel the most helpless. We don’t own the roads,” he said.

Fabbri is still waiting for DOT to make good on a promise to remove sand from Springs Avenue on the south end of the island. It was cleaned once after Hurricane Irma last fall. “It’s going to be an on-going problem,” he said.

He was also promised that drains on a section of Myrtle Avenue just below the Nature Park would be cleaned. That hasn’t happened either, Fabbri said, in part because it was scheduled for the same week Irma arrived.

“We have been somewhat of an SCDOT stepchild,” Braswell said. That’s why he created the eight-member committee after his election in November. “If we start bugging them enough, maybe we’ll get a little grease on the wheel.”

But committee member Sumter Moore said not all the problems are caused by nature and DOT. Near his house on the north end, “there’s concrete in the drain.” He said it was put there by a previous owner.

And DOT did a drainage project on Myrtle Avenue near Second Street. That was the result of the town coming up with a plan for the work and asking the agency for permission to carry it out.

“I’d been asking for three years and got no response,” Fabbri said.

But if the town does work on the state system, there are liabilities, he added. After the Myrtle Avenue project, a sinkhole appeared in a driveway. The town ended up sharing the cost of repair.

“If we do any work on our own and bypass DOT,” Fabbri said, “it could be far worse than a driveway next time.”

The town has budgeted funds to map the drains and inspect them with cameras. Fabbri also has a long list of areas that need work. The committee agreed to develop a priority list.

It will also work with researchers at Clemson University’s Baruch Institute on the environmental impacts. Moore noted the standing water is a breeding area for mosquitoes. “That’s a public health problem.”

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