Coast RTA eyes up boat for Sandy Island transportation

GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A safety concern voiced by the residents of Sandy Island in Georgetown County could soon have a resolution, should officials with the Coast RTA acquire a pre-owned boat at no cost.

Coast RTA Director Myers Rollins says the transportation agency has located a vessel of interest on listed by Etowah County in Alabama. Officials say the boat has the potential to be used as a mode of transportation on and off of Sandy Island for its residents and visitors.

The need for a vessel comes more than one year after three people were killed when the 15-foot boat they were riding in capsized near the shore of the Waccamaw River. The February 2009 accident killed Shaquatia Robinson, Lou Ann Robinson and Rishard Pyatt.

Representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard say in all, six people - four adults, one child and an infant - were inside of the boat when the accident occurred.

Since the accident, residents and area legislators have been rallying for a safer, more secure mode of transportation, but have yet to be successful in their efforts. The Coast RTA's plan to acquire the vessel from Alabama comes as the latest attempt to address the growing transportation issue on Sandy Island.

Rollins says a representative from Coast RTA has traveled to Etowah County to examine the 75-foot boat that is just under 10 years old. The boat, according to estimates, is valued at $247,500.

Should the vessel be transferred to the federally-funded Coast RTA, the boat would be traded at no cost to either party. Department of Transportation regulations reveal if Etowah County decides to reward the boat to a non-federally funded agency, the county would have to pay back an estimated $200,000 to the department.

So far, calls to the federal government to transfer the boat from Alabama to South Carolina have gone unanswered. The boat, according to officials, can't be transferred without federal approval.

If successful in acquiring the ferry, Rollins says Coast RTA would put request bids for an operator or hire someone as a Coast RTA employee to operate it.

While the vessel could be a golden deal for the Coast RTA and residents of Sandy Island, Rollins warns other agencies have shown interest in the watercraft.

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