Mount Pleasant shortfall puts big projects on hold
MOUNT PLEASANT — The town soon will start remaking part of Coleman Boulevard, but improvements to another stretch — between the Ravenel Bridge and Shem Creek —are on hold.
Town Council members agreed Tuesday to delay the later phase of Coleman indefinitely, as they learned they have nowhere near all the money needed to upgrade the town’s roads, drainage lines, buildings and ball fields.
Their unanimous decision came during council’s annual retreat at the Rivertowne Country Club.
Chief Financial Officer Charlie Potts said the town is $27.5 million short of what will be needed for major projects that Town Council already has approved.
And that’s just part of the picture. Town officials have identified $164 million of justifiable projects, such as drainage upgrades, a new fire station, recreation improvements and the like, but Potts said the town finds itself $113 million short of available financing.
No council member suggested raising taxes or fees to reduce that gap.
Mayor Billy Swails thanked Potts, saying, “You don’t always give us good news, but you give us the correct news.”
Some town projects still will move ahead, such as a proposed new Town Hall, expected to cost about $23 million.
Council members met in private to discuss legal aspects of possibly expanding the town’s property holdings near its current Town Hall off Ann Edwards Lane. No decision was made.
The town has looked at moving Town Hall to a more central location, but Mayor Billy Swails said staying put appears to be the best option — for financial reasons.
The town can pay for a new town hall at its current site with money from a tax-increment financing district, which lets the town siphon off new property-tax income for public projects in that area.
Mount Pleasant’s current town hall is a collection of four 1960s-era buildings that are difficult for residents to navigate and less than secure, Swails said.
“Some of our police employees aren’t on our campus,” he added. “We don’t have room for them.”
The No. 1 priority remains improving Coleman Boulevard between Shem Creek and Chuck Dawley and Ben Sawyer boulevards, where a new roundabout is planned.
But that project — which includes drainage work, landscaping, bike lanes and on-street parking — has drawn some criticism because of fears it could increase traffic on nearby residential streets.
Councilman John Burn noted the second phase of Coleman would not do anything to improve traffic flow, and council members voiced few qualms as they moved it to the back burner.
They also agreed to shelve plans for a town parking garage on Shem Creek, near the town’s new park.
Administrator Eric DeMoura unveiled a new capital improvement plan that outlined the town’s needs in infrastructure, such as drainage and road repaving, as well as recreation upgrades, a new fire station and the like.
Council members are expected to decide what to prioritize as they discuss the town’s 2013-14 budget later this spring,Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.