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Highway 17: Groups want to expand landscaping

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Groups that maintain the median on Highway 17 in Litchfield and the Pawleys Island area are looking at expanding their project areas, but they need more money to make it happen.

The groups met recently with local transportation officials to talk about taking over maintenance of the planted median that’s part of a project to replace the paved median from the North Causeway to Baskervill Drive. Initial landscaping would be included in the project.

Both groups get money from grants and private donations.

The Litchfield Corridor Beautification Committee already planned to pick up maintenance of the median between Baskervill Drive and Martin Luther King Road.

“It’s a lot easier for us, because it’s a much smaller area than what the Pawleys Island group is being asked to take on,” said Tom Leis, president of the corridor committee.

The Pawleys Island Highway Beautification Program was formed to landscape and maintain medians south of the South Causeway.

Board members agreed at their last meeting to “conditionally commit” to take on the area between the North Causeway and Martin Luther King Road.

But the acceptance is conditioned on the program receiving accommodations tax funding at its current rate.

“Everyone’s concern in this regard is how are we going to finance not only this new responsibility, but also to continue to fund the maintenance of the current portion of the median between Small’s Loop and Allston Plantation,” said Bern Sweeney, the group’s president.

Accommodations tax funds from Georgetown County account for about two-thirds of its total operating expenses, said Gary Griggs, the group’s treasurer.

“We are highly dependent on A-tax funding,” Sweeney said. “Should A-tax contributions be significantly reduced or eliminated, the Pawleys Island Highway Beautification Program would cease to exist.”

The program’s operating expenses were $31,822 last year and it received $17,439.

This year’s budget is $50,000.

In the latest round of funding in March, the group received $17,000 to maintain landscaping for the median below the South Causeway and $15,000 for hydro-seeding grass.

An estimate the group received for the new section of median says it would add about $15,000 a year to the group’s expenses, Griggs said. Accommodations tax funding would be necessary to pick up the extra expense, but Griggs is skeptical the county will guarantee the funds, which are available for tourism-related projects.

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