The financially struggling Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mt. Pleasant, near Charleston, says it will not have the $9.2 million it borrowed one year ago from the state to repair the warship U.S.S. Laffey.
However, the board authorized Chairman John Haggerty to send a letter to the Budget and Control Board members asking for an extension on repayment of the loan. This time would allow us to work on a master plan for future development on the land at Patriot’s Point, and of course that would be, right now, the best mechanism for repaying the loan.
Mac Burdette is the new director of Patriot’s Point after serving 25 years as the Town Manager for Mt. Pleasant. Some recent reports in the media have stated that several South Carolina officials were “irked” by “broken promises,” creating a loss of “credibility” for the historic landmark. Burdette says he has not heard directly from specific officials who are upset, but he understands.
We try and stay in contact with members of the Budget and Control Board and the General Assembly to make sure they understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. Of course, the agreement to repay the loan preceded my tenure as the executive director, so I’ve pretty much read what you read. The hopes were at that time when the loan was requested and approved that there would be the possibility of federal dollars being received by Patriot’s Point and part of that money would be used to repay the loan.
And, Burdette says that did not happen.
Burdette says he can’t make any promises that all the money will be paid back in a year, but the time will be well-spent in developing a plan.
We would like to have at least a year so that we could actually complete the review and approval of the master plan because that is going to take some time. That should give us enough time to be able to submit a very thorough and specific plan to the Budget and Control Board on how we are going to repay the loan and when.
Although it may seem like “broken promises,” Burdette says in his tenure you will not hear him saying something he cannot follow through with. The new director says it takes time to perfect.
I don’t blame the state of South Carolina for being concerned about the $9.2 million. We asked for a loan, they gave us the loan, loans mean just that: you borrowed the money, and there is an intent to pay it back, and we certainly intend to pay it back. With the state of the economy, and the budget issues the government of the state of South Carolina are having right now, I certainly understand why they expect us to pay it back. We wish we could give them a check for $9.2 million too, but that’s not possible. We are intending to do it, we just need a bit more time to sort it out.
And, sorting it out, according to Burdette, is in the hands of the master plan, which is detailing what to do with the rest of the 367 acres at Patriot’s Point. Although they have options of shopping centers and creating a suburban feel with a neighborhood, Burdette says they need to take the time to look at the whole picture.
Good news is we are sitting on some of the most valuable property in the state of South Carolina. In my mind that is the major option for not only taking care of the $9 million loan, but $80 million that we need for the long-term sustainment of the Yorktown, the Clamagore, the Laffey, and other things out here.
As for the deadline, Wednesday is coming fast, and Patriot’s Point says it will not have the $9.2 million to give back to the state. Burdette says if the extension is approved, sooner or later, the state will get the repayment.
The U.S.S. Laffey is back on the dock at Patriot’s Point, well-repaired and viewed annually by more than 240,000 visitors.