Panel weighs criteria to rank capital projects – Coastal Observer


Panel weighs criteria to rank capital projects

Mark Hawn, right, who chairs the commission, and Harris Chewning listen to public comment.

A proposal to evaluate capital projects seeking funds from a new penny sales tax looks at two broad categories: how much value and impact would the project have in the community, and what is the likelihood that the project will succeed?

The committee charged with reviewing the projects and drafting a referendum question for the November ballot will try to decide how much weight to give to those and other criteria when it meets today at the Waccamaw Library.

The Capital Projects Sales Tax Commission was created by Georgetown County Council last year to present a plan for spending an estimated $10 million annually that a 1-cent sales tax would raise. Under state law, it can be imposed for up to eight years.

The projects and their costs will be listed in order of priority on the referendum ballot. The six-member commission has been meeting around the county in an effort to convince rural residents that their needs will be considered even though three of the members live in the Pawleys Island area, two live in Georgetown and only one lives in the western portion of the county.

“We’re working on your behalf,” Mark Hawn, who chairs the commission, told a group of about 20 people last week at the Carvers Bay Library.

The commission will only accept proposals from the governmental entities that are able to carry out the projects.

Trudell Dease, a rural resident, handed Hawn a list of projects she would like to see on the list. Most involve parks and recreation, but she said she didn’t get much help talking to county staff about her ideas.

“I find that a lot with the county,” she said.

Pelor Richards, who lives in the Oatland community, wants to see the bridge over the Black River in her area become part of a greenway.

“I don’t think that would be submitted,” she said. “I need y’all’s help, board members. Please.”

A project like that would likely involve the state Department of Transportation, which owns the bridge, and the county Department of Parks and Recreation, which maintains the Bike the Neck route on the Waccamaw Neck, said Walt Ackerman, the county director of Administrative Services, who is helping the commission.

He offered to provide Richards with contact information for both agencies.

The commission sent out notices last week to state, regional and local governments in the county that it was seeking projects for review. But Richard’s request shows that those agencies need to be proactive, said Robert Crenshaw, the commission member from the rural areas.

Keith Moore, director of the Browns Ferry Water Co., said that rising costs forced his agency to cut back on some projects. He asked if he could seek funding from the sales tax to complete them.

That kind of request could put Moore in a good position to compete for a place on the referendum ballot because having matching funds is one factor that would contribute to a project’s success.

The commission wants detailed information on project plans and, particularly, costs. Projects that are in some stage of development are also likely to have an advantage.

“We don’t have six months to develop projects,” said Jim Hipp, a retired local government administrator who is advising the commission.

The deadline to submit projects is April 1. That will give the commission a month to review the proposals and draft a ballot to send to County Council. The council has to approve the question by the end of July so it can be placed on the November ballot. The council can reject the question or send it back, but it cannot alter the question.

The commission agreed to allow agencies to submit partial proposals in order to get a sense for how the project will be received. That allows smaller entities to participate without having to spend money on detailed planning.

Knowing the process the commission will use for ranking projects is important for the same reason, Hawn said.

Commission member Harris Chewning drafted the proposed criteria for reviewing projects.

Under the broad category of community impact, he listed five narrower factors to consider:

• potential to impact a majority of the county;

• ability to fix an existing problem;

• addressing a basic health, safety and wellness need;

• economic benefit;

• speed of implementation.

Projects that affect a large area or population, fix a major problem, have a strong economic benefit and can be completed in a single year would rank highest.

Under the broad heading of likelihood of success, there are four factors to consider:

• the likelihood itself;

• the quality of the cost estimates;

• its financial sustainability;

• and the availability of other funds.

Projects would rank highest if they had few risks, clear and reliable costs, few operating and maintenance costs, and other funding.

Commission member Gary Cooper said the proposal doesn’t consider whether a project serves a disadvantaged community. 

“That was my question,” said Alissia Matthews, a Browns Ferry resident. She suggested adding a criteria to weigh a project’s cultural significance.

Chewning thought that could be added to health, safety and wellness. “Pawleys Island has a lot more advantages than Andrews,” he said, and the commission needs to figure out how to address that.

The Andrews mayor, Frank McClary, was also concerned with the criteria.

“If everybody’s project has to benefit the whole county, then I think we’re making a grave mistake,” he said, adding that the referendum question needs to be “balanced for all.”

Cooper agreed.

“Politics is allocating funds for the entire county,” he said.

The commission meets today at 5:30 p.m. at the Waccamaw Library. It is due to meet Feb. 22 at the Howard Center in Georgetown and Feb. 29 at the Southern Georgetown Library.



Georgetown County Board of Education: First and third Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Beck Education Center. For details, go to Georgetown County Council: Second and fourth Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Council Chambers, 129 Screven St., Georgetown. For details, go to Pawleys Island Town Council: Second Mondays, 5 p.m. Town Hall, 323 Myrtle Ave. For details, go to   , .