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The S.C. Natural Resources Department is expected to begin discussions today on whether to assume ownership of the historic Morris Island Lighthouse.
"We haven't entertained the purchase of the lighthouse, but we would entertain a gift from the entity that owns it", Natural Resources Board member Mary Pope Hutson said in a recent interview.
"It's truly an asset that belongs to all of us", she said.
Save the Light Inc. bought the lighthouse last month and is raising money to stabilize and restore it. To get state money for the restoration, the lighthouse needs to be owned by the state, Save the Light co-chairman Robert New has said.
Natural Resources spokesman Mike Willis said Thursday that the lighthouse is scheduled to be discussed by the agency's board today. A decision is not expected, he said.
"We want to work with all interested parties to come up with a feasible solution for the ownership and management of the property", he said. "It's all very preliminary".
"It's a landmark definitely worth preserving, but the stability question and the money involved in protecting the lighthouse do have to be considered", Hutson said.
Save the Light, a nonprofit corporation, bought the lighthouse from a Columbia businessman for $75,000. Members of the grass-roots group worry that, if not protected from the sea, the lighthouse built in 1876 could one day topple.
Stranded in an inlet between Folly Beach and Morris Island, the lighthouse is relentlessly pounded by ocean waves.
Save the Light members last week asked the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission for a $75,000 contribution. Commissioners said they want to help preserve the lighthouse but made no decision.
Folly Beach City Council has contributed $20,000 toward preserving the lighthouse, a project expected to cost more than $1 million.
Hutson said Natural Resources doesn't have the money. But she's optimistic the General Assembly will include a contribution in the budget this year, she said.
An early state House budget included $500,000 for the lighthouse.
It's unclear whether the funding will remain in a final budget.