Senior Medicare Advantage plan insurance in Johns Island, SC
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Helping Seniors Make Better-Informed Medicare Decisions
Trying to pick a health insurance plan can be a chore for anyone. For many people, just mentioning the word "open enrollment" sends shivers down the spine. It seems like there's always a nagging feeling that you're wasting money, choosing a plan with poor in-network care, or both. One would think that health insurance gets easier as you approach retirement age, but the truth is that picking an initial Medicare coverage plan can be daunting.
Unfortunately, the confusing process of signing up for Medicare causes many seniors to forego healthcare coverage altogether. After all, Medicare enrollment can involve several federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration (or SSA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (or CMS).
At Senior Medicare Insurance Services, our passion is guiding seniors through the confusion of Medicare. That way, they can enjoy retirement with peace of mind knowing they are protected and ready for life after 65. We work with dozens of insurance companies, giving our clients the chance to choose a plan that best fits their lifestyle.
We choose to design our senior insurance plans with a focus on optimal benefits structure, lower costs, and personalized service. Some independent insurance agencies see their aging customers as nothing more than a financial transaction waiting to happen. In contrast, we treat each of our clients with respect and dignity as we help them navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. Combined with individualized service, we help older Americans make well-informed decisions about insurance. Whether you're in need of senior Medicare Supplement Plan insurance in Johns Island or simply have questions about signing up for Medicare, our team is here to help.
Guiding You Through The Confusion of Medicare!Request a Consultation
What is Medicare?
If you're approaching the golden years of your life, it's important you understand what Medicare is if you don't already.
Medicare is a federal health insurance program reserved for people older than 65 who have worked full-time for at least ten years. The Medicare program is paid for by a combination of worker payroll tax, premiums paid by Medicare enrollees, and the U.S. government.
There are four parts of Medicare:
The amount of money you pay for your health care depends on several factors, including:
- What kind of care you need, and how often it is needed.
- The type of Medicare coverage you choose.
- Whether there are alternative insurance policies that will help fill gaps in your coverage
- Whether a doctor agrees to charge you the same amount that Medicare will cover for a medical service
At Senior Medicare Insurance Services, we offer a number of health insurance solutions for seniors. Two of our most used services include Medicare Advantage plan insurance and Medicare supplement plan insurance.
Senior Medicare Supplement Plan Insurance in Johns Island
Sometimes called Medigap, the purpose of Medicare Supplement Insurance is to help fill in "gaps" that might not be covered by Original Medicare. You can think of a Medigap policy as a supplement for your Original Medicare benefits.
Private companies like Senior Medicare Insurance Services sell this type of insurance right here in South Carolina. While Original Medicare will pay for much of the cost associated with health care services you need, it may not cover all of your expenses. Generally, Medigap policies do not cover costs stemming from eyeglasses, private-duty nurses, dental care, hearing aids, or long-term care.
Depending on the Medicare Supplement Plan that you choose, it may cover out-of-the-country medical services when you travel abroad. Assuming you have Original Medicare coverage, your policy will cover its share of Medicare-approved health care costs. Once your Original Medicare coverage reaches its limit, your Medigap policy will pay its share of the fees.
Our Medigap policies are drafted to meet your specific needs, and can help cover remaining health care costs such as:
Important Information About Senior Supplement Plan Insurance
To dispel some confusion, you should know that a Medigap policy is not the same as a Medicare Advantage Plan. The latter helps you receive Medicare benefits, while the former supplements the benefits you obtain through your Original Medicare plan. As you begin to explore Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans, keep the following important information in mind:
As you begin to explore Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans, keep the following important information in mind:
- To qualify for a Medigap policy, you must first have Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B.
- Payments on your Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan will be made to the private insurance company that you choose, like Senior Medicare Insurance Services. These payments are made every month and are paid in addition to the monthly payment you make for Medicare Part B.
- If you are the holder of a Medicare Advantage Plan, it is illegal for an insurance company to sell you a senior Medicare Supplement Policy. If you plan on switching back to an Original Medicare plan, you may be able to purchase a Medigap policy.
- If you have health problems as you age, your standardized Medigap policy is guaranteed to be renewable. So long as you pay your monthly premium, your insurance provider cannot cancel your policy.
- Medigap policies only cover one person. If you have a spouse or family member that would like coverage, they must purchase a separate policy.
- You may only buy a Senior Medicare Supplement Plan from an insurance agent that is licensed to sell them in your state. Senior Medicare Insurance Services has been licensed to sell Medigap policies in South Carolina for years. We have helped countless seniors get the Medicare coverage they need and continue to do so to this day.
- In the past, Medigap policies were able to cover costs related to prescription drugs. As of January 1st, 2006, prescription drug coverage is not available on Medicare Supplement Plans. The best way to get coverage for your prescription drugs is to join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, often called Part D. Contact our office today to learn more about paying premiums on Medigap and Medicare plans.
For many people, the best time to buy senior Medicare Supplement Plan Insurance in Johns Island is during the 7 months Medigap Open Enrollment Period. This period starts the day you turn 65 years old, so long as you hold Medical Insurance (Medicare Part B). Generally, during the enrollment period, you get more policy choices and better pricing. Once the enrollment period is over, you may not be able to purchase a Medigap policy. Contact Senior Medicare Insurance Services today to determine if you qualify for a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan.
Senior Medicare Advantage Plan Insurance in Johns Island, SC
A Medicare Advantage Plan is a kind of Medicare health coverage designed to provide seniors with all their Part A and Part B Medicare benefits. Many Medicare Advantage Plans will often include coverage of the following:
- Preferred Provider Organizations
- Special Needs Plans
- Private Fee-for-Service
- Medicare Medical Savings Account Plans
- Health Maintenance Organizations
In addition, most Medicare Advantage Plans give seniors coverage for their prescription drug needs. When you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan through Senior Medicare Insurance Services, your Medicare benefits are covered through your plan and will not be paid for by traditional Medicare.
How Medicare Advantage Plans Work
Sometimes called "MA Plans" or "Part C," Medicare Advantage Plans are considered an "all in one" solution to Original Medicare. Senior Medicare Advantage Plans are only offered by private companies that are approved, like Senior Medicare Insurance Services. Seniors who enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan are still on Medicare. However, these individuals enjoy bundled plans that give seniors the benefits of hospital insurance (Medicare Part A), medical insurance (Medicare Part B), and sometimes drug coverage (Part D).
Medicare Advantage Plans are very popular because they cover all Medicare services and make life a little easier for seniors who have trouble understanding the nuances of Medicare.
When you contact Senior Medicare Insurance Services to choose your Medicare Advantage Plan, ask your agent about Medicare prescription drug coverage. Unless you already have drug coverage (Part D), you should seriously consider Part D coverage to help reduce costs associated with prescription drugs. You may also want to consider a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan to help fill gaps in coverage that Original Medicare will not cover.
Medicare Advantage Plan Insurance Rules
Medicare works by paying a set amount of money to the companies that offer senior Medicare Advantage Plan insurance in Johns Island. That money is used to pay for the care services that you need. Because Medicare Advantage Plans are different, you should expect out-of-pocket costs to vary depending on the plan you choose.
Different plans have different rules for how you receive services, such as:
- If you must go to facilities, suppliers, or doctors that belong to your Advantage Plan for non-urgent and non-emergency care.
- Whether you must get a referral to see a specialized doctor
Companies that offer Medicare Advantage Plans must follow strict rules, which are set by Medicare and can change every year.
Paying for Your Senior Medicare Advantage Plan Insurance
How much you pay for your Medicare Advantage Plan varies and depends on a few different factors. In most cases, if you need a kind of medical service, you will need to rely on the doctors and providers in your plan's service area and network to pay the lowest amounts. In some cases, if you choose to use a service outside of your plan's network of coverage, you may have to pay out-of-pocket.
We encourage you to contact our office today to learn more about Medicare Advantage Plans, how they work, what your options are, and how often you will have to pay out-of-pocket, if at all.
The Senior Medicare Insurance Services Commitment
Since our company was founded, we have led the insurance industry by providing our clients with the most valuable, helpful insurance solutions available. We are fully committed to our current and prospective clients by:
- Choosing to focus on personalized, one-on-one service. When you work with our team, know that we will always design your health insurance plan with your best interests in mind.
- Listening to your specific needs.
- Responding to all inquiries and questions promptly and with a friendly attitude.
- Providing you with the best customer service in the senior health insurance industry, whether you have questions or are ready to move forward with a Medicare plan.
Our mission is to help give seniors the best Medicare assistance available so that they may understand the Medicare process and make an informed health coverage decision. We have the knowledge, skills, and experience to assist anyone interested in Medicare. Our personal goal is to become a lifetime resource for our clients and give them greater confidence in choosing their insurance plans.
Latest News in Johns Island, SC
Circus show brings exotic horses, fire dancers to Johns Island
Step inside the big top tent during Cirque Ma’Ceo to witness an emotionally charged artistic experience featuring circus performers and horses from around the world. With misty red lighting, the tent offers an intimate setting where every seat allows for breathtaking access to the one-of-a-kind performance which promises to transport you back in time to the “roots of Gypsy heritage,” according to the show’s website. This 90-minute show offers fire dancers, mesmerizing acrobatic acts, dance and equestrian displays....
Step inside the big top tent during Cirque Ma’Ceo to witness an emotionally charged artistic experience featuring circus performers and horses from around the world. With misty red lighting, the tent offers an intimate setting where every seat allows for breathtaking access to the one-of-a-kind performance which promises to transport you back in time to the “roots of Gypsy heritage,” according to the show’s website. This 90-minute show offers fire dancers, mesmerizing acrobatic acts, dance and equestrian displays.
Cirque Ma’Ceo is suitable for all ages and offers five performances March 24-26 at Johns Island County Park.
The show has been described as an equine version of the famous Cirque du Soleil. The theatrical, equestrian-themed circus show tells a story through acrobatics, dance and aerial performance — all to the acoustic beats of Spanish guitar. Cirque Ma’Ceo is based out of Sarasota, Fla., and has performed in Las Vegas, Nev., Honolulu, Hawaii, and all over Canada.
Rachel Gauthier, media relations for Cirque Ma’Ceo, said the show blends many cultures. It was created in 2005 by director Olissio Zoppe, a ninth-generation descendent of the historical Italian family that created equine-based theatrical-style circus performance, the Zoppe and Zamperla family. Zoppe himself has performed in the circus since childhood.
“He was born in the circus — he’s been doing this all his life, and now he’s created his own show,” Gauthier said. “We’re performing and traveling all across the United States doing this amazing show, but this will be our first time in Charleston.
“The show features aerialists, fire dancers and amazing tightrope acts. We have this really dreamy act of featuring this black Friesian stallion horse. The performer rides the horse as an aerialist takes flight over him with red ribbon silks. It’s a really beautiful act.”
Those who are interested in horses will enjoy seeing many different and exotic breeds, including Friesian Percherons, Mustang quarter horses, miniature horses and more. The show combines elements of contemporary circus, as seen in Cirque du Soleil, along with more traditional circus elements.
“Zoppe comes from a more traditional style of circus: the big top tent with the ringmaster announcing act after act — the traditional circus acts that you would see. This show is a blend of both worlds because he comes from a traditional circus family, but in his work he has touched on the contemporary more theatrical side of circus too. He was inspired to create his own show that had this traditional feeling to it, but brings a contemporary style of circus as well,” Gauthier said.
General admission tickets are $35 and can be purchased here.
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Johns Island residents push back on proposed bridge over marsh
The marshy edges of the Charleston peninsula and its surrounding islands were long viewed as opportune sites to dump debris and add developable land mass to a city surrounded by water.But that attitude has shifted in recent decades as concerns over sea-level rise and loss of native plants and animals take focus. That’s why a proposal to build a bridge over a largely untouched marsh on Johns Island caught nearby residents off guard.“It was astounding to me,” said John Zlogar, chairman of the Johns Island Task F...
The marshy edges of the Charleston peninsula and its surrounding islands were long viewed as opportune sites to dump debris and add developable land mass to a city surrounded by water.
But that attitude has shifted in recent decades as concerns over sea-level rise and loss of native plants and animals take focus. That’s why a proposal to build a bridge over a largely untouched marsh on Johns Island caught nearby residents off guard.
“It was astounding to me,” said John Zlogar, chairman of the Johns Island Task Force. The group was established a decade ago to bring together residents and local officials to address Johns Island-specific issues.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will review an application from property owner Michael Blanchard to build a bridge connecting his piece of land on a narrow island in Pennys Creek, a tributary of the Stono River, to the mainland of Johns Island. The property is zoned to allow up to 40 single-family homes, but Blanchard has not submitted any formal plans to the city yet. The lot has been in his family since the 1940s but until now, no one has had the financial means to both develop it and build a bridge to it, he said.
“We’d like to put some houses on it,” he said. “Heck, I would live out there if I could.”
Building a bridge would connect his 60-acre property to an existing neighborhood made up of two roads and about 200 townhomes off of River Road. An extension of one of those roads, Fenwick Planation Road, would be required for drivers to access the bridge. And Blanchard already has an easement there because his family previously owned the land across Pennys Creek as well.
But using that easement would result in what resident Candice Losego calls, “an eyesore.”
“It would go right against my backyard,” she said.
A view that currently gives way to marsh grass, seabirds and the occasional herd of deer, would be obstructed by a 33-foot-wide bridge the length of 1½ football fields.
Losego and other residents of the neighborhood have been rallying supporters to call for DHEC to host a public hearing on the proposal.
Because DHEC has received over 20 requests for a hearing, officials said they will host one on Johns Island but have not set a date and time yet. At the hearing, residents will have an opportunity to share comments about the proposal before DHEC reviews the application.
As of now, Blanchard’s lot is inaccessible.
The nearest road to Blanchard’s property on the island, Rushland Landing Road, runs perpendicular to it and leads to a bridge connecting to Johns Island. Between Blanchard’s land and Rushland Landing Road is a piece of property owned by S.C. Department of Transportation that stretches the width of the island, isolating Blanchard’s lot.
Residents and environmental advocates would prefer Blanchard get an easement from the S.C. Department of Transportation to access Rushland Landing Road instead of building another bridge.
“The applicant does not appear to have detailed why this is an infeasible route for access,” a comment submitted to DHEC by the Coastal Conservation League states.
DOT bought the property adjacent to Blanchard’s in 2019 in anticipation of the department’s plan to extend Interstate 526 and link West Ashley, Johns Island and James Island. As a part of the larger project, the department plans to build a connector through its property on the small island in Pennys Creek.
Charleston Chief Resiliency Officer Dale Morris said that if the project gets the go-ahead, it would make more sense for Blanchard to try to tie into the proposed connector that would run though the island and use it as the main access point to his property rather than attempt to build his own bridge.
“The Dutch Dialogues would say, ‘have as little of a touch on the marsh there as you can,’” Morris said, referring to a yearlong flood-management research program the city underwent in 2019. “Using the I-526 opportunity to access that land would be better than building that bridge.”
But the full project has stalled somewhat due to eye-popping cost estimates that most recently landed at $2.2 billion. While the agency works to fill funding gaps, any property DOT bought in preparation for the effort sits in limbo.
Blanchard said if he had his way, he wouldn’t have to build a bridge at all.
“If we can get access to Rushland Landing Road, we would give up on the bridge in a heartbeat,” he said.
A statement from DOT said granting access to the property is “not possible,” due to the myriad government agencies involved in the I-526 project. The agency is also not obligated to grant access to Blanchard because it had been landlocked long before DOT bought the property, the statement read.
Whether the bridge plans materialize or not, Blanchard will likely face fresh opposition should he choose to develop his property.
A shifting tide
New developments in sensitive areas such as Pennys Creek are in murky territory when it comes to city regulations.
What is currently legal may not be legal a few years from now.
That’s because Charleston officials are currently crafting a Comprehensive Water Plan and a new zoning code for the entire city. When those documents are complete, developers will have a new set of standards to follow. And those could restrict how much building happens in low-lying areas, especially along a marsh.
“We have to turn those concepts and goals into a zoning ordinance and language,” Morris said. “Once we do that we will have more control over how and where development can occur.”
But without new zoning laws in place, the city is facing an uphill battle managing the drainage needs of both old and new neighborhoods.
Upstream from Pennys Creek, Charleston is pursuing a $12 million drainage project around the Barberry Woods Development. The city plans to restore 25-acres of wetlands around the flood-prone neighborhood for use as a public park and natural drainage tool. The open space will help absorb stormwater that eventually runs into Pennys Creek and then the Stono River. The last thing the city needs, Morris said, is another bridge disrupting that process.
Family thankful for friends, strangers after Johns Island house fire
A Johns Island family who lost everything in a house fire wants to thank their community for the love and support shown to them during the hardship.Published: Tue Feb 14 2023JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - A Johns Island family who lost everything in a house fire wants to thank their community for the love and support shown to them during the hardship.The fire happened on Dunwick Drive on Johns Island jus...
A Johns Island family who lost everything in a house fire wants to thank their community for the love and support shown to them during the hardship.
Published: Tue Feb 14 2023
JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - A Johns Island family who lost everything in a house fire wants to thank their community for the love and support shown to them during the hardship.
The fire happened on Dunwick Drive on Johns Island just before 5 a.m. Sunday.
The Barnett family says they are the “luckiest unlucky people.”
Homeowner David Barnett said he’s just glad his family is alive. The family was celebrating their children’s birthdays over the weekend and had family and friends visiting. Seven people staying at the home the night of the fire escaped, and no one was injured.
Looking at the exposed structure of the house covered in black ash, son Parker Barnett said that’s not what’s important.
“I mean the house doesn’t matter. Everyone is alive, that’s the biggest part. I could care less about the house,” Parker said.
The family was able to rescue one of their dogs, Ellie. Daughter Laurel Barnett held the small dog while she talked about the night. She said their Doberman Lilly didn’t come out with them, but a few hours after the blaze was put out, firefighters found Lilly alive among the rubble.
“It took a lot of pressure off of me for sure because she just used to follow me everywhere and it did not feel right without her but it’s much better now,” Laurel said.
The family said the past few days have been difficult and a whirlwind as they assess the damage and try to understand what their future holds.
It didn’t take long for the community to jump into action, ready to help the Barnetts with whatever they need. A neighbor started a fundraiser that earned more than $30,000 in a few days. People are also collecting clothes in the family’s sizes.
“We’re grateful that we live in such a community that in time of need comes together and lifts everyone up, we’re just so thankful,” David said.
David is a chef at Stono Market and Tomato Shed Café. Restaurant owner Barbara Ambrose said she knows the family well.
“Dave’s been with us for 15 years almost. So, we’ve watched his children be born, grow up... We learned to love his wife, Jen, they’re really wonderful people,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose shared the ways to support the family on the restaurant Facebook page and said she shared a message for them from the team and their friends.
“We love you. We are so glad that y’all are OK. And that’s the most important thing, but everybody wants to know what they can do to support you and to help your family get back on their feet again. So let us know,” Ambrose said.
The Barnett family wished to thank everyone who has donated money or clothes to their cause. They say it’s amazing to see family and friends care about them and it puts things into perspective for them.
Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.
Charleston Co. School District makes progress with new Johns Island elementary
A new elementary school planned for Johns Island is making its way through the approval process with the City of Charleston.Published: Mon Feb 06 2023CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A new elementary school planned for Johns Island is making its way through the approval process with the City of Charleston.The construction plan went before the design review board for the second of its three times, on Monday. It’s a standard, but lengthy, process any builders go through with big projects in the city.Executive Directo...
A new elementary school planned for Johns Island is making its way through the approval process with the City of Charleston.
Published: Mon Feb 06 2023
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A new elementary school planned for Johns Island is making its way through the approval process with the City of Charleston.
The construction plan went before the design review board for the second of its three times, on Monday. It’s a standard, but lengthy, process any builders go through with big projects in the city.
Executive Director of Capital Programs Jasmeen Shaw explains the school is going to be state of the art and offer STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math – education.
“The island truly deserves a brand-new school and we’re able to bring them a brand-new school which as well as alleviates some of the overcrowding that’s been caused by growth in the area – which is a great thing,” Shaw says.
The elementary school will be off of River Road. It is planned to be two stories and serve 700 2nd through 5th graders.
During community meetings last year – some people expressed concern about traffic. Part of the construction also includes building a roundabout on River Road to enter the school property. The project also includes adding a left turn lane from River Road to Brownswood Road and adding a right turn lane from Brownswood Road onto River Road.
“We’re going to bring several road improvements to the area, which is not only going to benefit the school which operates Monday through Friday for the most part, but even on weekends and as a whole, this particular school is going to be an asset to the entire community,” Shaw says.
Stephanie Yesil and her husband live in a neighborhood off River Road.
“Maybe it will help with the development of River Road and turning it into a safer place. Maybe adding some sidewalks, maybe adding some additional controls, maybe some new lights, maybe some new signs to make it even more family friendly. So, this could be a really good thing if it’s done well,” Yesil says.
She is a former education who says she doesn’t have kids yet, but supports investing in education.
“My husband and I hopefully one day will be parents but for now, I mean, we love our neighbors and almost every single one of them have new children and it would be really nice to make sure that this is more of a community-oriented place rather than having a bus kids all over the place,” Yesil says.
The elementary school is meant to help with the crowding at the Angel Oak Elementary, which is operating at 129% capacity over operating ability. The $53.5 million dollar brand new school will offer STEAM programs. Then, the Angel Oak Elementary building will be converted to serve as a head start and 1st grade center, so all levels are included. The goal open date for the school is the start of the 2024-2025 school year.
“I think education is always a great idea. I think there’s always going to be a need for it. I can’t speak to other city planning. I can’t necessarily speak to any other kinds of businesses that we should have over here. But you’ll always get a yes vote for me when it comes to bringing in good teachers, good people and giving more and more space for kids to go to places to learn,” Yesil says.
Monday, the design review board approved the conceptual plans and submitted the information to staff for a further focused review. The board made some aesthetic suggestions to the plans like more fencing around the back of the building, but overall supported the designs. Charleston County Schools says the project is on track and they expect to start site prep work in March.
Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.
Price tag for extending I-526 across Johns Island reduced slightly, to $2.2B
Charleston County has received a reduced cost estimate for the long-planned and controversial Mark Clark Extension project, but it’s a price tag that would still leave the county responsible for paying $1.78 billion.That’s about five times the county’s yearly general fund budget.Several council members who support finishing the Interstate 526 loop said the most likely path toward paying for it would be another half-percent sale tax increase that would require local voter approval.“We just have to ...
Charleston County has received a reduced cost estimate for the long-planned and controversial Mark Clark Extension project, but it’s a price tag that would still leave the county responsible for paying $1.78 billion.
That’s about five times the county’s yearly general fund budget.
Several council members who support finishing the Interstate 526 loop said the most likely path toward paying for it would be another half-percent sale tax increase that would require local voter approval.
“We just have to be willing to move forward and do it,” Councilwoman Jenny Honeycutt said. “Every day I get more and more calls.”
The project would create a 9½-mile, four-lane road from the current end of I-526 in West Ashley, to Johns Island and then onto James Island with a connection to the end of the James Island connector at Folly Road.
Most of the road would be elevated, with a proposed speed limit between 35 and 45 mph.
The marginally better cost estimate was delivered by S.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall in a letter to the county. The previous price tag was estimated at $2.35 billion, while the new estimate that followed a consultant’s study came in at $2.2 billion.
“I think initially there was some thought that maybe we have overinflated the numbers,” Hall said.
When the higher cost estimate came out in May, Bradly Taggart, co-founder of Charlestonians for I-526, told County Council members that a temporary spike in commodity prices was likely to blame. He predicted that “we could be looking at a project that costs half as much in six months’ time as the market rebalances.”
Instead, the estimate dropped by less than 7 percent.
Hall said the estimated $150 million reduction came mainly from reducing the cost of potential “risk elements” — surprises during construction, such as unplanned conflicts with utilities or unexpected poor soil conditions — and partly from reducing expected cost inflation.
“This estimate has built into it every possible contingency for things that could go wrong,” said Honeycutt, who said she thinks the actual cost will be lower.
Hall asked the county to develop “a financial plan that is rational and realistic” for the entire road project, which would be required in order to get final approval for an environmental review from the federal government. She also asked the county to approve $150 million in preliminary work, with the county paying half that cost, to keep the plan moving forward.
Honeycutt and Council Chairman Teddie Pryor both said they favor a new half-percent sales tax referendum as the best way to pay the cost. County voters previously approved two such sales tax increases, mostly to fund road projects.
Pryor said if there were another referendum, it could be entirely dedicated to funding the Mark Clark Extension. The most recent sales tax increase, following a 2016 referendum, was expected to raise $1.89 billion for specified road projects in the county, over 25 years.
The county received the new cost estimate for the Mark Clark Extension on Dec. 2, a spokesperson said, and has not had time to discuss it. The earlier higher estimate was delivered to the county in May.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry,” Councilman Henry Darby said at the time. “I would never, ever go with this.”
The Mark Clark Extension has lots of support, including the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the city of Charleston and the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors, but also lots of opposition. The Coastal Conservation League said in May that the multibillion-dollar price tag “is a perfect opportunity for Charleston County Council to walk away from this project.”
A community organization called Nix 526 has also been fighting the extension, and Charleston Waterkeeper and the S.C. Wildlife Federation have raised objections.
Supporters say it’s necessary for traffic relief and possible hurricane evacuations, while opponents say it will increase development on Johns Island and harm the environment while providing little traffic relief at great cost.
New roads tend to provide traffic relief for a time but also spur development. The existing portion of I-526 from North Charleston to Mount Pleasant initially provided traffic relief and a new hurricane evacuation option, but it also accelerated development in northern Mount Pleasant and on Daniel Island. The state is currently planning to spend about $4 billion to widen that part of the interstate.
Here are some numbers to put $1.78 billion in context:
The S.C. Department of Transportation assumes that if the Mark Clark Extension project goes forward, litigation could delay it by two or three years.
Pryor blamed opponents for the rising costs of the project, and said it could have been built for far less years or decades ago. In 2015, the cost estimate was $725 million.
Unlike the even-more-expensive plans to widen and improve the existing sections of I-526 — for about $7 billion — the state in 2019 limited its contribution to the Mark Clark Extension project to $420 million and the county agreed to finance the rest.
“Our interstate program is focused on upgrading our existing interstates,” said Hall, and those plans are focused on moving freight and aiding commerce. The state is pursuing plans to widen all or portions of interstates 526, 26 and 95, and to redesign multiple interchanges.
County Council is expected to discuss options for the Mark Clark Extension at a future meeting. Hall did not put a deadline on her request for action.