Rural roads lead list of project recommendations

Rural roads standing in line for paving money top the list of 20 projects recommended for a capital projects sales tax referendum in Georgetown County.

The county on Monday released the Capital Projects Sales Tax Commission’s recommendations, formed over two months of meetings.

The list totals $40 million for eight years, somewhat under the estimated $5.5 million a year an additional 1 percent sales tax will bring in.

State law allows counties to impose a capital projects sales tax if voters agree. The money must be spent on certain items that will be on the ballot, listed by priority. The tax can be imposed for no more than eight years.

County officials say the new tax is the only way to get ahead on a list of projects mostly chosen by hundreds of residents.

But county voters have turned down sales tax votes three times in the past. Two would have used the money for property tax reduction, and another was for capital projects, mostly parks.

The lead proposal on the list is $5.16 million for rural road paving. If money comes in as expected, most of the roads could be completed in a year.

The county’s latest capital projects plan had no new money for road paving since $1.7 million was allocated for such work in 2008.

County Administrator Sel Hemingway said the roads on the list were requested for paving by residents.

The proposal also includes $5.5 million for dredging the shipping channel. Although it is a state port, county leaders say the project is so important to the economy that local money should be offered to get it going.

Hemingway said the amount is the estimate from the Army Corps of Engineers for the first year’s expenditure of a 3-year project to restore the depth of the Winyah Bay shipping channel. The idea is for the work to begin with the county’s money, and to be finished with state or federal funds, he said.

On another dredging issue, the proposal suggests $1.8 million for a spoils site for dredging in Murrells Inlet. Hemingway said that is the estimated cost for the site, which must be ready before any dredging can occur.

The most expensive item is $6.5 million for Georgetown’s library. Sampit and Waccamaw libraries would also get funding. Hemingway said the $2.81 million for Waccamaw Library is in addition to $3.5 million the county has already set aside for the facility. The extra money will allow the library to be built to “the proper size to accommodate for future growth,” he said.

Most of the rest of the allocations are for recreational facilities, although $1.5 million for a new fire station at Big Dam is fourth on the list.

Hemingway said he will recommend that the council adopt the project list for the ballot. Public hearings are expected to be planned at some point after that action.