Utility will propose $56.1M in projects to commission – Coastal Observer


Utility will propose $56.1M in projects to commission

The utility will submit 10 projects for funding through the capital projects sales tax.

The Georgetown County Water and Sewer District has $56.1 million worth of projects to propose for a share of a capital projects sales tax that is expected to come up for voter approval in November.

In addition to those 10 projects, the city of Georgetown has 13 more to propose at an estimated cost of $26.2  million. City Council is due to meet today to finalize its list.

The town of Pawleys Island is likely to cut its project list from five to three after learning that requests for a generator for Town Hall and solar powered trash compactors at beach accesses wouldn’t qualify because they are classified as equipment rather than infrastructure improvements.

With just over a week to go before the deadline to submit projects, the six-member commission that will review projects and draft the referendum ballot is focused on how it will score the requests to ensure they are treated fairly. It will also have to figure out how it will manage the work flow as it faces a May 2 deadline for completing the ballot to present to Georgetown County Council.

“We’re going to have a busy April,” said Mark Hawn, who chairs the commission.

The 1-cent sales tax is estimated to generate up to $10 million a year, and it can be imposed for up to eight years. 

County Council initiated the process last fall to get the tax on the ballot. The council also agreed to seek voter approval for a 1-cent local option sales tax that would be used to reduce property taxes and help fund the operation and maintenance of any projects built through the capital projects sales tax. The council must approve the ballot question, but it cannot alter what the commission presents.

Georgetown County and the town of Andrews are also expected to submit projects. So is the state Department of Transportation. Andrews is also planning a sewer project, according to Mayor Frank McClary.

In meetings around the county over the last two months, the commission has heard from residents who want water and sewer projects; either new service or upgrades to existing systems.

Eight of Georgetown’s projects are for water or sewer.

The proposals from the water and sewer district, which is a state special-purpose district, would  – in order of priority – upgrade the water service in the Plantersville area ($14.6 million in two phases), bring sewer to the Sampit community ($12.8 million), eliminate septic tanks along the Black River in the Oatland community ($4.6 million) and in St. Luke ($5.1 million), and bring water to Big Dam Swamp ($3.7 million) and in the northwest part of the county ($2.2 million). Sewer improvements along Highway 701 ($1.7 million) and water improvements along Highway 521 ($6.4 million) would boost capacity for future growth, as would sewer improvements along Brick Chimney Road west of Georgetown ($3.9 million).

“Everybody kept calling and asking for projects,” said Tommie Kennedy, the district’s executive director.

The sales tax commission created a metric to score projects based on nine criteria, including their impact on the wider county, their ability to fix infrastructure problems, their economic development benefits and the quality of their cost estimates. The factor with the most weight is a project’s ability to improve health, safety and wellness. 

At a meeting two weeks ago in Andrews, the commission members tested the system on four imaginary projects. The one that came out on top was a water and sewer project that would serve  200 homes in a rural area. It didn’t score high on countywide impact, but it got the highest marks for health, safety and wellness, speed of completion and the quality of the cost estimates.

Because the operation and maintenance of the project would be paid for by customers through their monthly bill, the project also scored well for its financial sustainability.

Scoring second in the exercise was a new training facility for Horry-Georgetown Tech. A park along an unspecified river with no other facility within 15 miles scored third. A proposal to double the parking area on the south end of Pawleys Island was fourth.

Last week, at Carvers Bay, the commission scored its first project: an expansion of water lines by the Browns Ferry Water Co. 

The utility secured a $2.3 million federal grant and a $2.5 million loan in 2016 for the work. When it sought bids, the project cost had risen to $10.6 million.

They are moving forward with a scaled-back project, but want $2.95 million of the capital projects sales tax to complete the full project. It will create a loop system that improves water quality by eliminating dead ends and increases water available for firefighting.

The project did well although commission members varied in their scores.

It’s more important for commission members to be consistent in their scoring than to score projects the same way as their colleagues, Hawn said.

“That’s part of the reason the commission is set up the way it is,” said Jim Hipp, a former local government administrator who is working with the group.

Hipp also asked Moore if he thought the voters in the utility service area would support the referendum if their project was included. Moore said he was confident that they would.

Staff at Georgetown County Water and Sewer also used the commission’s metric in reviewing their project proposals, Kennedy said.

“We tried to anticipate their thinking,” he said.

The district will also point out in its proposals that it can fund some of the initial design costs from its own capital budget. That would help speed the process because if the tax is approved by voters in November, collections won’t start until May 2025. It will be late summer before the revenue begins to come in.



Georgetown County Board of Education: First and third Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Beck Education Center. For details, go to gcsd.k12.sc.us. Georgetown County Council: Second and fourth Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Council Chambers, 129 Screven St., Georgetown. For details, go to georgetowncountysc.org. Pawleys Island Town Council: Second Mondays, 5 p.m. Town Hall, 323 Myrtle Ave. For details, go to townofpawleysisland.com.   , .