Hilton Head sailing, rowing center too expensive, council says

bheffernan@islandpacket.comMay 24, 2013 

Support for a sailing and rowing center from some on Hilton Head Island Town Council sank quickly after they learned the estimate for the center's construction had increased to about $1 million.

"I am still in favor of the sailing and rowing center, but I am not in favor of spending $950,000," Councilwoman Kim Likins said during a budget workshop Wednesday.

Council agreed to spend $700,000 on the center during last year's budget season. But Likins said the additional $250,000 is "a lot of money that could be put to another project."

The price increase can largely be attributed to town staff's underestimation of the cost to build the center's floating dock off Squire Pope Road on Skull Creek, which could be used for fishing, crabbing and launching boats, town public projects director Scott Liggett said.

Original cost estimates were based on other wooden structures the town has built, such as bike-path bridges and marsh-observation decks, but the town lacks experience building docks, Liggett explained.

"I don't believe we have ever built a dock facility anywhere else," he said.

The town has spent $102,000 to design the center and study its environmental impact. A town design board gave the plans final approval in March. Liggett said the project awaits permits from state and federal regulators.

The center would be built on 7.75 acres of town-owned property and have a 1,400-square-foot picnic pavilion, fenced boat storage and restrooms, according to plans approved by the design board.

Some council members asked town staff to determine what features could be cut to reduce costs. Others said they might still support the project at its new price if the rowing and sailing community would help pay for it.

"It should not be a total public project. There should be private money in here, as well as public money," Councilman John McCann said.

Likins said the town has asked other organizations with facilities built on town-owned land, such as the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association and the Coastal Discovery Museum, to pay part of the costs.

"Everybody has to come forward with their own funds," Likins said.

Over the years, the amount the boating groups have said they could raise has dropped from $1 million initially to $356,600 in 2010. Specific amounts raised since that time were unavailable late Friday.

The town stepped up last year, offering to pay for a $700,000 center, Liggett said.

Several members of the rowing and sailing community attended the budget session Wednesday to push for the center.

The groups would support a pared-down facility, said Lou Strayer, who has helped plan the center and coaches Hilton Head Island Crew.

"We don't need all the fancy stuff to get started," he said.

Pat Shevlin, who serves as a board member for the crew team, said the community could still raise money, though he did not state an amount, and volunteer to help build the center.

Council plans to approve the 2013-14 budget before June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

Related content

  1. Hilton Head rowing, sailing center to get final town review, March 25, 2013
  2. Hilton Head rec board gives nod to rowing, sailing center plans, March 9, 2012
  3. Advocates hope to gain headwind for rowing, sailing plans, Nov. 15, 2011

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