Haley declares emergency for Georgetown

An aerial view on Friday of the remains of eight buildings that burned on Front Street in Georgetown Wednesday morning. Wade Spees/Staff Friday September 27, 2013. Buy this photo

Gov. Nikki Haley has declared an emergency for the city and county of Georgetown as the region recovers from last month’s Front Street fire that destroyed a row of historic buildings, putting merchants and dozens of people out of work.

The order opens a funding stream for the local governments that can be used to repair public property destroyed by the blaze.

Mayor Jack Scoville said the list could be lengthy. Among the areas the city is investigating for damage is the planking that made up parts of the Harborwalk along the Sampit River, along with its supportive under-structure.

Other damage points includes street lights and electrical fixtures.

And, because the damaged buildings likely will have to be elevated in any rebuild, the town’s sidewalks, parking areas and streetscape could have to be re-designed as well, Scoville said.

“We welcome any kind of funds that would be available,” Scoville said. “Any kind of help is greatly appreciated.”

The funding would come from up to $1 million of Community Development Block Grant Program funds held by the S.C. Department of Commerce. This is the first time a governor has utilized CDBG funds for emergency purposes, Haley’s office said.

Haley’s emergency declaration also prohibits the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce from charging unemployment insurance taxes to the multiple businesses affected by the fire.

An estimated 130 people lost their jobs as a result of the Sept. 25 blaze that destroyed at least seven buildings, but no deaths or injuries were reported. Seven families were left homeless.

With the declaration of an emergency, the businesses will not be charged costs associated with paying out unemployment benefits, the governor’s office said.

The cause of the fire, which is believed to have started in some debris behind one of the damaged block’s bars overlooking the waterfront, remains under investigation. The recovery cost is expected to go into the millions of dollars for a downtown area that’s dependent on tourism.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.

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