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The Surfside Beach Pier: A Never Ending Storm?

Unfortunately, the storm surrounding the Surfside Beach Pier didn’t end when it was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

Conversations about rebuilding the pier began almost immediately, but more than 4 years later, reconstruction has still not begun. Changes in Surfside Beach leadership and town council in-fighting, material misunderstandings with FEMA, arguments over the pier design and proposed tenants and even a lawsuit over the selection process to pick the construction firm have contributed to the delay.

As of this writing, things finally seem to be moving forward. The construction bid has been awarded and following some procedural approvals by the Surfside Beach Town Council, construction could begin as early as November 2020. The lease with the Surf Diner has been renegotiated. FEMA has agreed to extend the completed construction deadline to June 30, 2021 (from the original October 10, 2020 deadline) and indicated it would extend further as long as satisfactory progress is being made.

The FEMA extension was critical as it seems no one at the Town of Surfside Beach understood the pier had to be REBUILT by 10/10/20 in order to receive FEMA’s $9.9 million in funding. For some reason, for the past 4 years, Town administrators and council members thought they simply had to BEGIN construction by that date. That bit of information was revealed in a 9/23/20 Town Council meeting by the Interim Town Administrator. Someone moved heaven and earth to get FEMA’s attention and extension approval within a week!

The Surfside Beach Town Council also recently voted to approve a 30-year contract with a company to operate a restaurant on the pier (the same company which operates the Surf Diner, currently on the pier). That was a contentious 4-3 decision; opposing council members argued the terms of the lease had been negotiated in closed door session and should have been disclosed to the public prior to the vote. Even the mayor, Bob Hellyer, voted against the contract because he felt “toward the end of discussions, negotiations broke down. The final product has some flaws, and is not in the best interest of the town.”

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