In a move that tourism officials say will do wonders for local businesses, the city of Laurinburg agreed this week to move forward with the U.S. 74 lighting project which would see two Laurinburg exits from the highway illuminated.
With a price tag of $454,864, the project will be paid for by the city as well as the Tourism Development Authority and the state Department of Transportation. The TDA and the DOT will each contribute $100,000 toward the project, with the city of Laurinburg picking up the rest.
The city will also cover the tab for monthly maintenance and utilities expenses, which will cost about $12,000 annually according to City Manager Ed Burchins.
Once completed the stretch of highway around exits US 74 bypass/15-401 Business (South Main Street) and at US 74 bypass/US15-401 near the Jameson Inn will be well lit, increasing nighttime visibility for local businesses.
Asked by Councilman JD Willis if the TDA had been asked to help pay for the ongoing expenses, Burchins said that the TDA “felt like they did their part” in contributing $100,000 to the project.
“We went through a number of discussions and asked if they would be willing to split the (utilities) costs … (and) we also asked the county commissioners,” Burchins said.
“The county has yet to get back to us,” said Councilman Curtis Leak.
Mayor Tommy Parker appeared earlier this year at a meeting of the Scotland County Board of Commissioners in the hope that they would also partner in the project, but that seems unlikely according to County Manager Kevin Patterson.
“They considered it at a recent board retreat, but nothing was agreed to,” Patterson said.
TDA director Cory Hughes told the city earlier this year that a similar lighting project in Anderson, SC resulted in a significant boost in sales for some businesses after lights were installed off of exit 19 along Interstate 85.
The owner of a Cracker Barrel there said that sales were up as much as 25 percent after the lights were installed. Hughes reported similar feedback from numerous other businesses in Anderson, including hotels, restaurants and gas stations.
Burchins said that the lighting project could “possibly” be on the agenda for the December meeting of the state Board of Transportation.
“Then progress will get underway in earnest.”