Water safety projects exceed grant request for tourist marketing – Coastal Observer


Water safety projects exceed grant request for tourist marketing

The sheriff’s office wants to replace the ATVs and trucks used by the beach patrol.

In a county that sits on the Atlantic Ocean and is traversed by five rivers, first responders need to be equipped for water rescues.

Four requests from first responders seek more than $900,000 in accommodations tax revenue to pay for staff, training and equipment. 

By law, accommodations tax revenue, which the state collects from a 2 percent tax on short-term rentals, must be used for tourism-related activities. 

The first responders were among 22 nonprofits and county agencies that appeared before the county’s Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee last week and requested nearly $2.3 million in grants. The county expects to have $1.5 million to award.

The Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office asked for $669,253 for its beach patrol.

That is a $394,787 increase over the department’s 2022 request. The extra money will replace all the patrol’s equipment, including four trucks and four all-terrain vehicles.

The Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District asked for $154,383 to continue to fund the Murrells Inlet Marine Safety Initiative.

Capt. Brennan Moore told the committee that when the district didn’t get all the money it asked for last year, it could only staff its water rescue unit on the weekends between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day instead of every day.

The county’s fire department asked for $75,000 to buy a rescue boat and equipment such as sonar.  Chief Jim Falkenhagen said his department currently relies on neighboring departments for water rescues.

Midway Fire and Rescue asked for $27,440 to bring in water rescue trainers and to buy drones that can be used to search for victims during water rescues.

As in the past, the largest single request – $743,531 – came from the Chamber of Commerce, which conducts the marketing and advertising for the county Tourism Management Commission. That money is in addition to the 35 percent share of accommodations tax revenue that the law requires be spent only for tourism promotion.

Six requests totaling $198,780 were for the maintenance and beautification of various parts of Highway 17 and its median. They were: Mainstreet Pawleys Beautification Committee, $60,000; Litchfield Beautification Foundation, $38,000; Murrells Inlet 2020, $36,200; Garden City Beach Community Association, $30,000; Pawleys Island Highway Beautification Program, $20,000; and Brookgreen Gardens, $14,580. 

The Garden City association also requested $7,000 for street lighting.

The Mainstreet Pawleys Beautification Committee is a new nonprofit formed to take care of the raised medians on in the Pawleys Island business district.

Vida Miller, the new group’s president, said they want to spend $65,300 to complete a one-time reduction of the dead or dying plants in the median. Once those are removed, maintenance costs should drop to about $24,000 a year.

The Murrells Inlet 2020 request would cover 100 percent of the group’s maintenance cost.

Committee chairman Lauren Joseph reminded Stacy Johnson, executive director of the nonprofit, that accommodations tax money is supposed to supplement private money.

Murrells Inlet 2020 also requested $10,000 to promote its annual oyster roast. 

Two county government departments also requested money to manage trash. Parks and Recreation asked for $163,306 for trash removal at beach accesses in Pawleys Island and Garden City and cleanup along the bike path. Environment Services asked for $30,000 to fund its roadside litter crew.

The Parks and Recreation director, Beth Goodale, told the committee that the county set another record for trash collection this year, almost 2,000 pounds a day.

The accommodations tax grant would fund the purchase of a mobile compactor, which would reduce the number of trips a trash truck has to make to a recycling center or the landfill. 

Goodale also wants to buy larger trash cans with lids for beach accesses. The county wouldn’t have to put bags in the the lidded cans, which would keep 38,000 bags a year out of the landfill.

Other requests included: 

• Hopsewee Preservation Foundation, $50,000 to restore an 18th century slave cabin; 

• Georgetown Business Association, $45,000 for the food, beer and wine festival, Music in the Park, and Art Walk; 

• Friendship Place, $11,388 for the Bridge2Bridge Run; 

• and SOS Health Care, $7,000 for a mac and cheese cookoff.

The advisory committee will vote on its recommendations on Nov. 2 at 9:30 a.m. in County Council chambers and present the recommendations to council on which projects to fund on Dec. 12. Council will make the final decisions.



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.   , .