The state plans to lend $9.2 million to Patriots Point to help repair the sinking Destroyer, the U.S.S. Laffey. State Treasurer Converse Chellis announced the decision yesterday after touring the ship that was once known as the WWII ship that would never die.
“It’s important that something be done now because the ship could sink and cause a major problem for Charleston. Why it’s important to save the Laffey is one, it is a historical monument to the greatest generation, and it would be a shame for the state to do what the Japanese and the Imperial Army could not do: sink the Laffey. Plus, Patriots Point is one of the top tourists destinations in South Carolina and the ships down there are important,” Deputy State Treasurer Scott Malyerck explains.
But rust has gotten the best of them. Malyerck says if nothing is done and the Laffey were to sink, it could cause an environmental problem for the harbor.
Patriots Point Director Dick Trammell says they cannot rely just on revenue, the grant is a must for the ships to survive.
“It really is not so much the revenue because our revenue, we generate our operation’s revenue. We are a state enterprise agency, we do not get one dime from the state of South Carolina, nor from the federal government, yet we are dealing with historic ships. As our volunteer Ernie Stine said in a sense we are like the Smithsonian Institute in a way that we preserve history,” says Trammell.
The Laffey and other ships, as a tourist attraction, bring in nearly $7 million to the local economy. Malyerck says the Laffey is being repaired first because it is the worse out of all the WWII ships.
“The Laffey is so bad that engineers says it could sink at any time. We saw a video while we were down there, they showed the treasurer, this scaping hole that was covered, and thousands of gallons were going in per minute until it was plugged,” says Malyerck.
The $9.2 million was slated for capital improvement projects and will have to be paid back within 18 months- before it’s needed for other projects.
“These funds coming to loan to Patriots Point are not being diverted from any other state activity or need. These are funds that have been sitting in an account dormant, waiting to be spent on capital projects that were approved in a 2004 bond issue,” says Malyerck.
The loan received initial approval from the Joint Bond Review Committee that analyzed the project. Next, the State Budget and Control Board will review the plans on June 29 for final approval. If the money is given final approval, repairmen will pull the Laffey out of the water on to the dry dock and Malyerck says it will take about four to five months to repair.