December 22, 2014

Lawsuit filed over lack of Port Royal sale

The shuttered former Port of Port Royal (Image: Bob Bender/SC Dept of Health and Environmental Control)

The shuttered former Port of Port Royal (Image: Bob Bender/SC Dept of Health and Environmental Control)

A group of Port Royal residents is suing the State Ports Authority, claiming the agency has mismanaged the sale of its now-shuttered property in Beaufort County.

The Beaufort Gazette reported Monday that the county and town claim they’ve lost more than $7 million in property tax revenue because of the state’s lack of action in selling the site. The former port has been closed since 2004. Three attempts to sell it have fallen through.

The lawsuit filed by area developer Dick Stewart and others claims the Ports Authority (SPA) has failed to follow the “Prudent Man Rule,” a common law term that requires a property’s trustees to invest in or maintain their property or estate in the same way a prudent perons would invest in his or her own property. The lawsuit claims the Ports Authority has allowed buildings on the property to deteriorate due to weather exposure and has rejected offers that met all state requirements needed to purchase the site. Stewart is one of the developers who had expressed interest in the site along Battery Creek.

The lawsuit also says the failure to sell the property has hurt the town’s economy. “The SPA’s failure… combined with it (sic) mismanagement of the assets raises real concerns that the SPA has not only failed to follow the law but has intentionally by deed and word… created circumstances that prevented the required sale to occur,” the lawsuit stated.

A Ports Authority spokeswoman said the claim has no merit, but added she could not comment further due to the pending litigation.

Earlier this year, state legislators passed looser requirements that allow the Ports Authority to accept bids at 80 percent below the appraised property price and break the property into smaller parcels. If a deal is not in place by June 2015, the property will be offered for sale at auction.


Charleston Harbor deepening to cost more than early estimates

Map provided by the Corps of Engineers which shows the extent of their recommended plan

Map provided by the Corps of Engineers which shows the extent of their recommended plan (Click to enlarge)

An initial proposal to deepen the Charleston Harbor would cost roughly a half-billion dollars, much more than originally predicted.

The Army Corps of Engineers Charleston District on Tuesday released a draft of its three-year feasibility study into dredging the harbor. South Carolina State Ports Authority officials have said a deeper channel is necessary to handle new, larger container vessels that are already arriving on the East Coast.

The Corps is recommending a 52-foot depth for the channel, an increase from its current 47 feet. The work would cost a total of $509 million, according to the study.

“The alternative that was the most expensive, but still produced the greatest amount of net benefits was the 52-foot alternative,” the chief of the Charleston District’s planning and environmental branch Bret Walters told South Carolina Radio Network. “And that’s what’s being proposed.”

Earlier rough estimates had the project costing around $300-350 million. That was the number cited when state lawmakers set aside reserve funds to cover the entire cost in 2011. But project manager Brian Williams said the study found heavier rock material in the channel that would be more difficult to dredge than sand or silt.

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Moncks Corner bridge reopens five months after train collision

The reopened bridge on Thursday (Image: SCDOT)

The reopened bridge on Thursday (Image: SCDOT)

A Moncks Corner bridge that was destroyed by a train derailment more than five months ago is now open once again — and it comes as a relief to a popular nearby park.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) announced Thursday evening that the Cypress Gardens Road bridge over a CSX rail line was open to traffic once again. The bridge had been closed for repairs since April 28, when five train cars went off the rails and struck a concrete support. No one was injured in the collision.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed an Emergency Declaration the next day, which allowed the Federal Highway Administration to set aside repair funds. The agency originally estimated work could take up to six months.

A SCDOT spokesman said the $3.05 million “no-excuse” contract was finished ahead of schedule. CSX will repay the cost for the replacement bridge.

SCDOT inspectors watch a train pass by the damaged bridge shortly after the crash(Image: SCDOT)

SCDOT inspectors watch a train pass by the damaged bridge shortly after the crash(Image: SCDOT)

The announcement is welcome news for Cypress Gardens park. The road going over the bridge is the gardens’ link to the main road. Visitors have needed to take a 22-mile detour just to visit the park since May.

Park director Heather Graham said her 25-minute commute to work had increased to more than an hour while repair crews worked. She said many visitors and volunteers did not even bother with the trek.

“It just was very inconvenient for them,” she said. “So we did lose some volunteers that are hopefully going to come back once the bridge reopens.”

While the park has not yet calculated its total attendance during the bridge closure, Graham said a decline was “noticeable,” especially during special events.

Cypress Gardens is a 170-acre preserve that is owned and operated by Berkeley County.


Report: SC drivers twice as likely to hit deer than rest of U.S.


Image: SCDNR

Image: SCDNR

The odds that a South Carolina driver will hit a deer in the coming year are almost twice the national average, according to a new report.

State Farm Insurance on Monday released findings from its national claims data on deer-vehicle collisions. The report calculates a South Carolina driver has a 1 out of 93 chance of hitting a deer over the next 12 months– tenth-highest among all states measured. The national average is a 1 in 169 chance. At least 175 people were killed in collisions with deer in 2012, according to the report.

State Farm spokesman Justin Tomczak said the state’s rural nature and large deer populations are likely explanations. “You have a higher concentration of deer in the southeastern United States,” Tomczak told South Carolina Radio Network. “The second thing is, there’s higher population density. If you look at the population of a South Carolina or Georgia versus Wyoming, you’ve got a lot more people here.”

West Virginia topped the list at 1 in 39 odds. Hawaii drivers are least likely to hit a deer, at more than 10,200-to-1 chances.

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SC House names special committee to solve road funding dilemma

Crews work to widen Interstate 26 in Lexington County earlier this summer (Image: SCDOT)

Crews work to widen Interstate 26 in Lexington County earlier this summer (Image: SCDOT)

Acting South Carolina House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville, has taken advantage of his new post to shift attention to South Carolina’s aging roads — and how lawmakers can address a looming $42 billion gap by 2040 between necessary work and the current means to pay for it.

Lucas — who is temporarily acting as Speaker of the House following Rep. Bobby Harrell’s, R-Charleston, suspension on Thursday — announced Friday he is creating a special ad hoc committee to examine what steps South Carolina can take to better fund its roadways.

The Special Infrastructure & Management Committee is tasked with identifying new funding sources that can be dedicated towards road maintenance and discussing what reforms are necessary at the state Department of Transportation (SCDOT) to addresses those needs. The first meeting will be on Tuesday, September 16.

“It’s not all a lack of dollars, it’s not all mismanagement but the two go hand-in-hand and somewhere in this equation, something’s not adding up right,” Lucas said in a statement. “It’s time we get to the bottom of all this, because all South Carolinians are far too familiar with the end results this has produced so far – less than satisfactory roads.”

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