Berkeley County poised to buy Hanahan school site

Construction could start soon on a $22 million elementary school in Hanahan, almost a year after it was supposed to open.

Hanahan City Council and the Berkeley County School District are expected to discuss the $1.16 million sale of a 21-acre tract on Williams Lane at their respective meetings Tuesday. The sale would clear the way for work to start.

But residents remain concerned that the most recent plan doesn’t adequately address traffic issues that a new school will bring to an area already choked by congestion.

“It is a crucial safety issue,” said Pat Eckstine, a member of a citizens committee that has been working with the district and city officials.

District officials said Monday they are ready to move forward with the 900-student school that county voters approved in the $198 million Yes 4 Schools referendum four years ago.

The school, now expected to open in August 2018, will ease overcrowding at Hanahan Elementary, Goose Creek Primary and Sedgefield Intermediate schools.

To address traffic concerns, the current plan calls for turn lanes at Williams Lane and Foster Creek Road that will be monitored by police during the school rush.

Williams Lane will also be widened with sidewalks added, but the dead-end street will not be connected to North Rhett/Henry Brown Boulevard, according to the district.

While district officials defended their plan as safe and appropriate, Eckstine’s group said better flow would come from a roundabout at the intersection and a connection — for school use only — to Henry Brown.

She noted at Goose Creek Primary, 3 miles down Foster Creek, cars back up at the start and end of each school day. “Transpose that to a dead end and how can you not pursue a connection to North Rhett?” she said.

With a price tag of about $300,000, turn lanes are about half the cost of a roundabout, officials said.

“What we are concerned about is that the district is seeking (state Department of Transportation) approval to do the least expensive improvement, selecting cost over safety,” Eckstine said.

District spokeswoman Katie Orvin said district officials were unavailable for comment Monday.

The district looked at five properties before choosing the tract owned by Hanahan, but it has been unable to close on the purchase because of a dispute over attendance lines.

Hanahan officials wanted a promise that the city’s children would attend its schools, but the district balked.

In the end, no deed restrictions were put on the contract, but current attendance lines show all Hanahan kids going to Hanahan schools, City Administrator Johnny Cribb said Monday.

While the two sides haggled over the contract, Hanahan rezoned the property from conservation/preservation to residential/single family, which allows a school, increasing its appraised value from $550,000 to $1.16 million, the district said. However, the district was once considering a 12-acre site that would have cost $1.4 million, Cribb said.

He is hopeful the deal will go through soon.

“We are very optimistic,” Cribb said. “I’m glad it’s finally moving forward. We’re excited about getting a new school in Hanahan.”