Groups ask county for $175 million in capital projects

dburley@islandpacket.comMay 12, 2014 

The town of Port Royal is seeking $22.5 million to help purchase the Port of Port Royal, shown, from the S.C. Ports Authority.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

Leaders from across Beaufort County asked a panel Monday night for more than $175 million in taxpayer money to pay for a sweeping list of capital projects.

That money would come from a 1 percent sales tax increase that's being considered as a possible referendum in the November general election.

The Beaufort County Capital Project Sales Tax Commission heard proposals from a charter school, a utility service, an economic development agency and two municipalities, among other groups.

Desired improvements Monday ranged from new bridges to and from Hilton Head Island, to the purchase of the Port of Port Royal.

The groups and their proposals included:

  • Lowcountry Economic Alliance: Seeks as much as $59 million to purchase three sites for development in Beaufort County: a Yemassee commercial park, the Pepper Hall tract along U.S. 278 in greater Bluffton and additional land in Beaufort Commerce Park. The group plans to attract out-of-town businesses to these locations, according to director Kim Statler. She acknowledged the high price tag, but argued "residents will have to pay more to maintain the high quality of life in Beaufort County."
  • Riverview Charter School: Seeks $8 million to renovate, or between $18 million and $22 million to build a new school building. The school is located at the former Shell Point Elementary School. The school board's chairman, Edward Foster, said the school will outgrow its current facilities by 2016.
  • Beaufort-Jasper Water Sewer Authority: Seeks $5.5 million to construct a building near its Chelsea water treatment plant that would house workers during disasters. General manager Ed Saxon said the 25,000-square-foot building would support employees who work on water and sewer services during storms or hurricanes.

  • Town of Hilton Head Island: Seeks as much as $60 million for projects. Chief among them is providing sewer service to neighborhoods near Gumtree Road and preliminary work to rebuild the bridges to and from the island. The effort would include designing, permitting and acquiring land near the bridges and cost an estimated $23.5 million.
  • Technical College of the Lowcountry: Seeks $6 million to rebuild two deteriorating buildings at the school's Beaufort campus. The school also asked for a new building at its Bluffton campus. The 40,000-square-foot building would cost $12.5 million and would house hospitality-related classes.
  • Town of Port Royal: Seeks $22.5 million to help purchase the Port of Port Royal from the S.C. Ports Authority. Town manager Van Willis said Beaufort County could buy the land and transfer the deed to Port Royal, or it could transfer the money to the town for the purchase. The town would then seek to sell it, likely in parcels, a process he thinks would take a year or two.

Commission members were more receptive to the Port Royal project than any other.

"I think all six of us are looking for something to happen at this property," Chairman Craig Forrest said.

WHAT'S NEXT

The commission has until the beginning of June to create a list of projects from across the county. County Council must approve all the proposals by Aug. 15 if the sales tax measure is to go before voters.

The tax could last from two to eight years, or when all the projects are paid in full.

It will generate an estimated $30 million a year, according to county attorney Josh Gruber.

Before it finalizes its list, the commission will hear more presentations at its 6:30 p.m. meeting Monday at Town Hall on Hilton Head Island, 1 Town Centre Court.

Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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