A legislative committee has given the go-ahead for a Mount Pleasant museum to bring back its newly repaired World War II-era ship. The U.S.S. Laffey has been docked across the river in North Charleston for the past two years after the Patriots Point maritime museum lacked the money to tow it back to its original spot.
Patriots Point Development Authority officials say they will be able to raise the necessary $1 million for the move through increased revenue. No taxpayer money is involved, they say.
“That’s what exciting,” said the Authority board’s chairman Ray Chandler, “It’s not like we’re sitting here with a capital account that we’re draining down.”
Because the museum is considered a state body, it had to get permission from the legislative Joint Other Funds Oversight Committee for any new spending. The Budget and Control Board must also approve the expenditure. Chandler said the museum was not able to get cost estimates for the move early enough for it to be included in this year’s state budget.
The museum will have to close for a week in early January as officials rotate ships around so the Laffey can dock. The submarine Clamagore will also be moved to a new location further down from its current spot. A pier the public uses to access the ships will have to be temporarily removed to create room.
It’s the first stage of a new master plan as the museum tries to rebrand itself.
“We don’t want to get locked in to a Second World War paradigm,” Chandler said, “(This) rebranding is going to bring the potential of a landside museum that will have a national prestige, probably connected with patriotism nationally. We’ll be able to bring into the fold not only the World War II history buffs, but the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq participants.”
Patriots Point borrowed $9 million from the state to repair the ship in 2009 and has struggled to pay the loan back. It still owes approximately $8.7 million. It has until June 2013 to come up with a repayment plan, which director Mac Burdette says the museum is working on. Both Burdette and Chandler came to Patriots Point after the loan was made.
Chandler said an increase in marketing, events, and organizations renting out the flagship U.S.S. Yorktown means the museum is much better off financially than it was even six months ago.
“We now have an overall master plan that’s realistic, not ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda,’” he said. “It has goals for six months from now, goals a year from now, three years from now.”