Governor signs off on grants for Georgetown • Front Street reopens to traffic
Published Thursday, October 10, 2013
By TOMMY HOWARDTHOWARD@GTOWNTIMES.COM
Georgetown, S.C. — Just one day after fire destroyed seven buildings in Georgetown, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley toured the city. She told local residents and officials she would do all she could to help recovery efforts.
On Tuesday, Haley signed an order allowing the city to apply for up to $1 million in grants to repair and replace infrastructure lost to the fire.
And last Friday, she declared Georgetown County and several surrounding counties to be a disaster area. That allows businesses and individuals to apply for low-interest loans from the federal Small Business Administration.
Also on Friday, the last building severely damaged was torn down.
Owners Tee and Rhodes Miller lost their Goudelock & Co. building, but next door is Black Mingo Outfitters. They will operate from that store on Front Street while debris is cleared away, plans are made and the rebuilding process begins.
Overall, just about every one of the 10 businesses has arranged to move to another location along or near Front Street.
A fence that had blocked the street following the Sept. 25 fire has been pulled back to the edge of the street, and other businesses in Georgetown are open and welcoming customers.
Merchants in the undamaged businesses in the 700 block of Front Street met Monday to discuss ways to bring in more visitors and customers.
Some 200 firefighters and first responders from a dozen fire departments in the Pee Dee and Lowcountry came to help Georgetown firefighters.
They stopped the fire, though seven buildings dating back at least 100 years were lost. No one was seriously hurt. Several firefighters were hit by debris when an explosion occurred, perhaps from a propane gas tank. They and a couple of others who suffered from heat exhaustion returned to fighting the fire.
Miller and his wife were among many who counted their blessings in the aftermath of the fire.
The building that housed Goudelock & Co. couldn’t be salvaged.
“It’s completely collapsed inside,” he told the Times on Friday. “The fašade is not historic.
“We’re going to do everything we can to have a historic look.”
Miller wears many hats. On Friday, he wore a blue hard hat as he waited for the building to be demolished.
He and his wife and father own the two buildings on Front Street, and leased space to others. They live in the Maryville community of Georgetown, and he is the director of Planning and Economic Development for the City of Georgetown.
“Once we get things safe and get some normalcy back, and get some common plans, we will work to build back.”
“We’d love to do all we can to make it look like it did 100 years ago.”
But, he continues, “The costs are enormous.”
While there’s no set figures yet, Miller said it could easily cost twice as much to build new structures as the insurance that each property owner had.
“From my city position, the Fire Relief Fund can help look out” for those who’ve lost both their homes and their businesses, or the 130 workers who’ve lost their jobs.
“The emerging businesses need some money to come back.”
The Bridge2Bridge run, the Wooden Boat Show and the Taste of Georgetown Festival are all coming up in the next month. Those events and the visitors they bring to the city will be crucial in the fourth quarter of the year, Miller said.
For many small businesses, the fall of the year can be even more important than the summer months.
Figuratively wearing several of his hats, Miller said it’s important for the city and the businesses to coordinate their efforts and work together “so we don’t tie things up for years.”
“We have to work together. It’s in the best interests of the city as well as the property owners.”
There have been a number of fundraising efforts to help the affected people and businesses.
A Fire Relief Fund is set up through First Citizens Bank. The Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce and the Georgetown Business Association are working with business owners and others.
Donations may be made at any branch of First Citizens Bank, SCBT, GKCU or through the Web site
The Chamber of Commerce uses its Web site to update people on various fundraising activities and events: