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Georgetown County stormwater fund cut 2 years in a row; residents have drainage concerns

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Everett Carolina backyard flooded (copy)

Ordinance 21-08 proposes an amendment to increase funding for the 2021 fiscal year operating budget by more than $447,000. This same budget saw more than a 59 percent decrease in its stormwater management fund from fiscal year 2020's original budget, as well as a previous decrease of nearly 13 percent from fiscal year 2019's original budget.

GEORGETOWN COUNTY — Residents of Georgetown County are frustrated with persistent flooding in their neighborhoods, and hoping county council will devote more attention and funding to the issue.

Meanwhile, the county slashed 59 percent from its stormwater fund last year, and more than 12 percent from the year before that. Despite this, the county, so far, has focused on funding other projects this year, including library renovations.

Dedric Bonds, one of many residents of Spring Gully who spoke at a county council meeting Feb. 23, showed several pairs of his family's worn and muddy boots. The wear on the boots was not from everyday leisure, or because he and his family are avid fisherman or particular fans of water.

“These boots represent what it takes to navigate the swamp that becomes my yard after any degree of rain,” Bonds said.

Bonds was not alone as 10 other Georgetown County residents voiced their concerns Feb. 23 about how the 2014 Capital Project Sales Tax surplus is to be spent. Ultimately, their vocal dismay led to the discussion being pushed back to allow for other project considerations.

As part of the surplus, amounting to a total of $12.5 million, each councilmember got $1 million to spend on capital projects in their district.

Councilwoman Lillie Johnson represents Spring Gully's District 4, and Bonds said that Johnson did not consult with her constituents first before proposing that her $1 million be used for library improvements. South Carolina law specifically lists flooding as something the tax can be used for, and though Johnson met with her constituents March 4 after public outcry, she declined to comment on whether or not consultations happened prior.

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Tracy Jones, the county's stormwater division manager, said the budget was lower for this year because Director of Public Works Ray Funnye and County Administrator Angela Christian didn't approve some planned projects.  

"When I give a cost estimate, when I add it up, that's when I ask for $5 million or $3 million, whatever it is that year," Jones said. "I'm the one who puts the (budget) to my boss ... maybe I asked for $3 million and they gave me $2 million because they didn't think I could get them all done."

Among the unapproved projects are drainage improvements on Boyle Drive in Litchfield, which the county is currently working to get the permissions for, public information officer Jackie Broach said.

Christian said the county tries to set realistic budgets for what can get done in a year, and that each fund, such as stormwater management, has the flexibility to request changes to their budget if they have time and money for more projects.

Bonds had no idea that the stormwater budget had been decreased by more than half, and said he hopes work can be done with organizations like Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments to increase funding and, therefore, improve the drainage issues in Spring Gully and all of District 4.

"59 percent is pretty daggone hefty," Bonds said.

Planning for the next year's budget has already begun, with departments already having submitted their budgets, Christian said. These budgets will come before council in late April.

Follow Demi Lawrence on Twitter @DemiNLawrence.

Demi Lawrence is a reporter who graduated from Ball State University. Before joining The Post and Courier, she was an intern at The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Indiana and Indianapolis Monthly.

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