City matches grant to remove vessels

An old double-masted boat protrudes from the shore of a creek that feeds into the Folly River in August 2008. Some on Charleston City Council say the state should bear the entire cost of removing abandoned vessels.

Charleston is moving to enforce a new local ordinance dealing with abandoned boats, but some council members remain concerned that the city is spending local taxpayers' money to do the state's job.

The city has identified a dozen dilapidated boats in Charleston waters, such as marshes and creeks, and plans to remove them in the coming months. A $44,103 state grant will pay for most of the work, but the city had to provide $14,701 in matching funds.

While it already was illegal to abandon a boat in public waters or on public lands, Charleston adopted an ordinance in February at the urging of Councilman Tim Mallard, making it a municipal offense to abandon a boat or motor in city waters.

Several council members at the time expressed concern that the city had no money to enforce such an ordinance and considered the city's provision of matching funds for the state grant to be an I-told-you-so moment.

"I knew that this was coming," said Councilman Gary White, as City Council voted Tuesday to accept the grant. "Now we are going to pay for the state of South Carolina to do their job."

Councilman Aubry Alexander also said the state should be entirely responsible for moving the derelict boats.

Mallard defended the city spending, saying that it was no surprise that a state grant would require local matching funds and that the effort to remove abandoned boats was a necessary thing to do.

"We're not just moving 12 boats," he said. "We're taking an opportunity to say to these people: 'Stop abandoning boats.' "

Police Chief Greg Mullen said the city likely would seek more grant money for future efforts but that the 12 boats slated for removal so far are the only ones that have been identified and tagged for removal in city waters.

Bid specifications for the removal work are expected to be published before the end of September.

The work is expected to begin in November and be completed within six months.

The state Legislature set aside $100,000 in grant money last year to help pay for abandoned boat removal, and the state also had $75,000 in federal grant funds to distribute.

Along with Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach and Georgetown sought state grants to remove abandoned boats.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or dslade@postandcourier.com.