EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series of articles about the state of local government. The Georgetown Times / South Strand News will have more detailed information from the county and the municipalities in upcoming stories.
No high-rises dot the skyline of Georgetown, but nonetheless there are several changes coming to the downtown area for the third oldest city in South Carolina.
Dr. Sandra Yúdice is City Administrator and talked recently about the State of the City during the annual luncheon on that topic hosted by the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce.
Plans are underway for a new downtown hotel – “The George” – to be built at the corner of Front and Queen streets, on the current site of the Georgetown Times newspaper building.
Another change to the city’s landscape will come in mid-2021, Yúdice said, when a new City Hall is to be completed. That will be on the site of the former City Hall that was damaged in the wake of sinkholes in 2011. The new City Hall will be a 16,000-square-foot, two-story building. Pilings will be driven into the ground to support the new structure.
“We are trying to make a connection with the clock tower on Front Street (the Town Clock) with a similar monument,” she said.
The sinkholes that developed in 2011 that destroyed Parrish Place — the former Colonial Store building — that housed a UPS store and other businesses came about due to work on flood control.
Millions of gallons of water were pumped from underground aquifers and sinkholes developed nearby. They ultimately destroyed or damaged more than a dozen commercial, government and residential buildings. It included the previous City Hall building.
Since then, SC DOT has completed its work on that particular drainage project.
The city is working on a strategic plan that includes projects designed to help address flooding.
Another aspect of planning is implementation of a Tax Increment Financing District. The Georgetown County School Board approved its participation in the TIF the day before the luncheon. She said she expects that Georgetown County will agree to the TIF at its Dec. 10 meeting.
“We will start developing the financial structure” once those approvals are in place.
As for the City of Georgetown finances, “We are in good shape,” she said.
The City budget is $33 million. There are 171 full-time equivalent employees.
For the budget, 48 percent goes to operations and 37 percent to personnel, and the rest to projects.
“We have a healthy fund balance,” Yúdice continued. “On the City Hall financing, we will not issue bonds. We will use the fund balance to finance the City Hall.”
“We have a credit rating of A-1. We can improve our credit rating by increasing the wealth of our citizens and increasing the tax base.”
An economic development project that the city, county and school district are jointly working towards includes the sale of the old Eagle Electric property on U.S. Highway 17 South. That effort is to help attract light industry, she said.
The city has received a certificate from the Government Finance Officers Association for financial reporting for the 29th time, Yúdice said.
“We are here to help. We are here to continue this partnership with the school district, with the municipalities, and with the county.”