Beaufort County has updated its application for assistance from the State Infrastructure Bank. The County’s application was deemed eligible last October.
The Infrastructure Bank does not currently have additional funding for any projects, but Beaufort County Administrator Gary Kubick addressed the bank board during a recent meeting.
Beaufort County voters have approved a $150-million sales tax referendum to help pay for ten separate projects. Kubick says the projects are essential since Beaufort is the only county in the state where everyone must evacuate in the case of a major hurricane threat.
The Infrastructure Bank application would be for 81 million dollars to cover the shortfall after the sales tax increase.
Kubick says the county is going ahead with three projects, even though the Infrastructure Bank funding is depleted. “We’re saying we have to move ahead on the primary projects. But the other seven are also important. Our decision about which projects is based on health, safety and welfare. While we’re debating where the money will come from, a hurricane won’t wait. So we’re trying to tell the Infrastructure Bank Board not to misinterpret Beaufort County’s intent to keep its people safe. We have a lot of projects we still need their help on.”
At the top of the list is “Phase 5A,” which would give Hilton Head residents and tourists a second route by which to evacuate the island. “Hilton Head only has one way in and one way out. And South Carolina is heavily dependent on the Hilton Head enterprise, the tourist dollars generated. And in the event of a hurricane, we have to get up to 20,000 people off that island.”
Kubick says a bridge expansion would help evacuation. “In the northern part of county we want to add lanes to an existing bridge to help with evacuation. That’s designed to evacuate St. Helena and Lady’s Island, to get them away from harm is a storm hits.”
Kubick says another evacuation project is the renovation of a well-used road. “S-C 170–we’re trying to widen it, give it some relief. We want to combine a new road with the current tree growth. It’s a beautiful lane. But it needs investment.”
Beaufort County officials are also considering the possibility of an infrastructure bank loan, as well as other state and local funding so that they can proceed with the safety proposals.