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Pawleys Island: Town considers moving all power lines underground

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

After completing a project this spring that moved power lines underground along a section of Myrtle Avenue, Pawleys Island Town Council will again look at a project that would do the same thing on the rest of the island.

The first step will be to appoint a committee to figure out how to share the cost of the project equitably among the 550 homes, according to Mayor Bill Otis.

“There are a number of issues that need to be dealt with,” he said. “It’s going to be a difficult process to figure out what’s fair.”

Wires were moved underground in front of 47 homes between the South Causeway and the Birds Nest section this year.

The project cost $360,000 with property owners paying $3,350 each plus the cost of making the connection to their homes. The town paid the balance with a franchise fee it collects from Santee Cooper.

A group of property owners on Springs Avenue wants to do a similar project and an anonymous property owner has offered the town $100,000 as a challenge grant to help bury power lines on Myrtle Avenue north of the South Causeway.

Town Council agreed this week to look at an island-wide utility project.

In 2006, the town considered a $4.5 million plan for underground power lines that would have been paid for by a $450 to $650 annual assessment over 20 years.

The council polled property owners and found 60 percent supported the idea, but decided it needed a two-thirds majority before imposing an assessment. The town has never had a property tax levy or any other form of municipal assessment.

Otis told council members that he found out after that decision that there was a concerted effort by owners at the Pawleys Pier Village condos to vote against the plan. “They thought they were being overcharged,” he said.

The condos represent about 10 percent of the island’s dwellings, though Otis said he doesn’t know how many condo owners actually voted.

But their concern is one the town will have to deal with in a new project. For instance, the 47 property owners who took part in the recent project won’t be charged again. But they will be asked to share the cost of a new transmission line Santee Cooper says is needed across the North Causeway.

The town’s power supply now runs over the South Causeway and the utility wants to create a “double loop” system. That is estimated to cost $300,000.

The double loop would make the system more reliable and benefit everyone on the island, Otis said.

The council didn’t set a schedule for creating the committee.

But while it is considering utilities, Council Member Glennie Tarbox suggested the town contact a natural gas provider.

South Carolina Electric and Gas, which serves Georgetown, might not be interested in serving the town alone, but it may see potential in serving it along with communities on the mainland, he said.

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