Despite being presented with a proposed master plan for redeveloping nearly 400 acres of state-owned land last week, Patriots Point's board more enthusiastically discussed what to do, long-term, with its homeless warship Laffey.

Operations director Bob Howard shared how great the ship looks, completely repaired and freshly painted, resting in a rental spot from Shipyard Creek Associates at $11,250 a month.

But what the board wanted to know was: When is the Laffey coming back? Or should it?

Patriots Point Development Authority used more than $9 million in state loan money to make emergency repairs to the famed World War II destroyer, but it now faces repayment of the money without federal dollars the board had been banking on.

Plus, bringing the Laffey back to the Mount Pleasant maritime museum means spending more money.

The window for dredging factors in, as do costs of opening the marina and mooring the ship. Some board members suggested cutting the Laffey loose as a better long-term solution.

Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails eventually cut in: "Folks, this just gets worse and worse," he said. "We're throwing good money at bad money. We need to bring that ship home now instead of spending more money for it."

Authority chairman John Hagerty worried about rushing the ship back to Patriots Point because of political pressure. He also pointed out the $80 million project that lies ahead for preserving the attraction's primary exhibit: the aircraft carrier Yorktown.

"Nobody is addressing that. People are not grasping that," Hagerty said. "We're discussing specific little things. We're doing a lot of finger-pointing. But we're not addressing the big issue."

At next month's meeting, the board will receive a report on the costs for returning the Laffey to the marina.

Rate increase

Now on a five-month growth streak, Charleston County hotels saw their biggest boost in year-over-year occupancy yet in July. Countywide, the occupancy rate climbed 14 percent, according to the College of Charleston's Office of Tourism Analysis. North Charleston saw the biggest gain, 23 percent, from July 2009 to July 2010. Charleston County's hotel occupancy has increased nearly 7 percent overall for the year.

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