Surfside Beach leaders concerned over money to repair pier

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Parts of the Surfside Beach Pier were demolished Monday after they were deemed unsafe, and now town officials are questioning the pier’s future.

Surfside Beach Town Council members will discuss in Monday night’s meeting whether there will be enough state funding left to rebuild the pier after paying for the demolition of the town’s artifact and the beach renourishment project set to begin this month.

Monday’s deconstruction was considered an emergency safety precaution to remove loose boards from the pier. Surfside Beach Mayor Bob Childs says while there is concern over money, tearing down the pier and moving forward with repairing the shoreline are both necessities the town simply cannot overlook.

“That’s one of those issues that we’re really going to have to look into and really watch our funding carefully,” admits Mayor Childs. “But these projects have to be done.”

As 36 feet of the treasured Surfside Beach landmark was demolished, even the demolition crew couldn’t help react to the falling pieces.

“As it started to go, we all just started running backward,” describes Tony Cooper, pier deconstruction project manager. “Was it scary? Very, very scary.”

Areas near the pier were closed off to swimmers and sunbathers as crews worked to clear the wood. Douglas Gale has been visiting Surfside Beach for more than 20 years.

“I traveled over 1300 miles to get down here, only to find out I can’t go fishing or anything like that cause the pier isn’t functional,” expresses Gale.

Gale says it’s taken too long to rebuild after Hurricane Matthew and he predicts the slow pace of the repair could deter visitors from coming to the family-friendly town.

“If your people are coming down here to enjoy the beach and the beach is in shambles, people aren’t gonna come here,” suggests Gale.

Mayor Childs says the portion of the pier destroyed Monday was a safety concern, and could not be delayed. He also adds that the timing of the upcoming beach renourishment project is out of the town’s control.

“We’re at the mercy of the Corps of Engineers,” describes Mayor Childs. “When they decide to do it, we have to do it at that point.”

Once the partial deconstruction is completed this week, engineers will assess the damage and recommend options to council for how to move forward.

The Surfside Beach Town Council Administrator’s Report, to be presented by Administrator Micki Fellner, states Fellner has met with State Representative Russell Fry on two occasions to “discuss [Fry’s] assistance on the state portion of the funding” due to concern on the town’s behalf that there would be little to no money left since rebuilding the pier will be one of the last projects to be complete.

There is a town council meeting Monday night at 6:30 p.m. to discuss state funding for the project and if there will be enough cash left to rebuild the pier by 2019.