051817 Infrastructure: Panel wants to boost bikeway funds to $1M
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The county hopes to leverage state grants to build more bike paths.

Infrastructure: Panel wants to boost bikeway funds to $1M

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

County Council members will try again next week to shift funds in the next phase of the capital improvement plan to provide $1 million for bikeways. The move follows completion of a master plan for bike paths and sidewalks. The funds would be enough to leverage $5 million in state grants, according to the founder of the Bike the Neck project.

“The grant money is out there. If we had money in our coffers to match it, we would be right there,” said Linda Ketron. The local match for state grants is typically 20 percent, she said.

County Council is preparing a final list of projects for a capital plan that will run through 2021. It includes $500,000 for bikeways. Council Member Austin Beard last week proposed adding another $500,000, taking the money from $1 million allocated to camping and hiking trails. He chairs the council’s Land Use and Tourism Committee, which approved the master plan.

The money for camping has been in the capital plan since it was first adopted in 2007, County Administrator Sel Hemingway said. “I think that a million dollars is excessive,” he added.

But Beard’s request prompted Council Member Everett Carolina to ask for a review of other projects in order to come up with $400,000 to renovate the former Sampit Elementary School as a community center. “This is one of the things that would be an uplift to the young people,” he said.

The capital plan includes $2.2 million for a library that would serve the southern part of the county. Council Member John Thomas suggested that would provide space for the programs Carolina has in mind, but Carolina said the old school was a better location.

“We have several communities that are looking for the same thing,” Council Chairman Johnny Morant said. Creating a center for Sampit would prompt other requests.

After deflecting Carolina’s request, Morant wasn’t inclined to bring the bikeway funding to a vote. He asked Beard to wait until the final draft of the bike and pedestrian path plan was ready. It was sent out to council members for comment Friday.

Beard will ask the council to look at the $1 million in camping funds next week. “I’m still inclined to move some of that, given the circumstances,” he said.

All but two of the bikeway projects in the plan are on Waccamaw Neck. “There are some people who say that Waccamaw Neck gets everything,” Beard said. “The need is greater.” Although his district is in the northwest portion of the county, he worked as a banker in Litchfield for many years.

“We got a little ahead of ourselves,” Council Member Steve Goggans said of last week’s effort. “I’m encouraged and optimistic.”

Although the county wants to develop camping sites in the western part of the county, there is no specific plan to do so. “It’s a simple function of prioritization,” Goggans said of the plan for shifting funds.

The $1 million on its own could fund construction of two of three projects Ketron says are critical to safety: a connector at North Litchfield, bikeways around Stables Park and a connector from Waccamaw Elementary School to Highway 17.

But she agrees with Beard that the money is more valuable for leveraging grant funds. And $1 million will go farther than $500,000. “It absolutely would,” she said.

It could also help start the planning for bike lanes in the Plantersville Road scenic corridor, she said.

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