Post Tagged with: "SCDOT"

I-73 Votes Ignore Immediate Local Needs

February 11, 2019 4:31 AM
I-73 Votes Ignore Immediate Local Needs

The I-73 participation agreement Horry County signed with SCDOT in December, at the urging of administrator Chris Eldridge and former council chairman Mark Lazarus, ignores local road needs, highlighted by recent flooding issues, for a new road that is years and over one billion unidentified and uncommitted dollars from completion.

When county council adopted Resolution 82-18 in July 2018, it specifically dedicated up to $25 million toward the I-73 project only. With this resolution in place, the county may not use any of this money toward repair or improvements to U.S. 501, S.C 9 or other roads in the county as flooding events since Hurricane Floyd in 1999 have shown to be needed. These funds can be used to improve S.C. 22 as that is part of the I-73 project.

There has been a general rush to dedicate funds for I-73 since right after the June 2018 primaries. Council held a special meeting on July 24, 2018 where Resolution 82-18 was passed which dedicated up to $25 million per year of 1.5% Hospitality Fee revenue to the I-73 project.

Staff immediately began conversations with SCDOT to develop and present the I-73 participation agreement. During the November 28, 2018 fall budget workshop, council approved allowing the administrator to execute the participation agreement with SCDOT. The agreement was executed by administrator Eldridge for the county and Christy Hall, the state Transportation Secretary on December 13, 2018.

At the July 2018 special meeting council also passed Resolution 84-18 directing staff to develop a plan to use $18 million of the 1.5% Hospitality Fee revenue on public safety and other roads. In addition, the resolution directed staff to draft an amendment to Section 19-6(h) of the Horry County Code of Ordinances, which currently requires all of the 1.5% revenue to be deposited in a Special Road Fund. The amendment would allow the $18 million to be used on other state approved tourism related expenses such as public safety, recreation, storm water and other infrastructure improvements.

To date no amendment has been presented to council. The amendment would require a three reading ordinance to become law. In addition, no plan for use of the $18 million has been presented.

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Horry County’s Flawed I-73 Agreement

January 28, 2019 4:50 AM
Horry County’s Flawed I-73 Agreement

The Financial Participation Agreement between Horry County and the South Carolina Department of Transportation, approved by Horry County Council November 28, 2018, appears to have many flaws not discussed before a resolution was passed allowing Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge to sign the agreement.

Generally the agreement provides that Horry County will provide up to $25 million per year from Hospitality Fee revenues to fund the construction of I-73 within Horry County (the Project) and SCDOT will oversee the project from design through construction.

The written agreement states, “SCDOT shall provide an Annual Work Plan to the county on the activities proposed by March 31 that the county shall approve prior to June 30 before commencing work in the succeeding fiscal year.”

I find the use of the word “shall” interesting here in that it means a strong assertion or intention of something happening. Are we to take it to mean the county intends to approve the work plan prior to each June 30th? Does this mean county council really has much of a choice in the decision?

At least a half dozen times during the over one hour discussion about the project and the agreement county council members were told by then council chairman Mark Lazarus and/or county staff members, predominantly administrator Chris Eldridge and attorney Arrigo Carotti, that no money could be spent on the project without prior approval from county council.

To support those statements, Carotti quoted to council the first sentence of Section III (D) of the agreement which reads, “SCDOT shall not enter into a construction contract without the County’s prior approval based on considerations that the contract provide a meaningful connection to the proposed I-73 corridor in part or in its entirety.”

What Carotti did not quote were the next two sentences of Section III (D) which read, “The County’s prior approval shall not be required to enter into contract agreements for improvements to SC-22, provided the cost thereof does not exceed the estimates provided in the Annual Work Plan. Nor shall the County’s prior approval be required for any right-of-way acquisition agreement or consultant agreement for work of the Project provided the cost thereof does not exceed the estimates provided in the Annual Work Plan.”

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County Government Year Ending with a Bang

December 5, 2018 5:25 AM
County Government Year Ending with a Bang

Normally local governments are in a holiday lull between Thanksgiving and the first few days of the New Year, but that has not been the case this year.

Last week’s fall budget retreat for Horry County Council saw lively, spirited debate on providing money for I-73 and the Horry County Solid Waste Authority’s (SWA) proposed new Solid Waste Management Plan. The debates among council members were only opening salvoes in what I predict will prove to be two high profile issues in the coming year.

The vote of county council members last week gave county staff the go ahead to enter into a contract with SCDOT to plan for expenditures on the I-73 route in Horry County. There is absolutely no justification to commit $25 million per year, bond that amount for 20 years for approximately $350 million in operating capital, only to construct a road that will end around Hwy 917 and the Marion County line.

Unless and until the state and federal governments are willing to commit serious money, at least a combined billion and a half dollars to I-73, it is not a serious project and we should not be wasting county money on a freeway to the rural hinterland.

After nearly 30 years of existence, it is time for the SWA to understand it was created to manage the disposal of the county’s solid waste in the most cost efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly manner.

This does not mean continued, mindless expansion of the Hwy 90 landfill in an environmentally sensitive area and at an ever increasing cost to county taxpayers.

The SWA was specifically charged in its establishment ordinance “to develop an acceptable alternative method of solid waste disposal and to reduce the tonnage of solid waste disposal in sanitary landfills due to the County’s high water table and other geologic characteristics that make utilization and expansion of existing landfills and the development of new landfills especially expensive and difficult.”

The proposed plan calls for continued horizontal and vertical expansion of the existing landfill footprint with spiraling costs. It is time for council to conduct its due diligence before voting on the proposed, new plan.

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International Drive Delay SCDNR Fault

February 11, 2016 12:03 PM
International Drive Delay SCDNR Fault

The delay in completion of International Drive can be laid directly at the feet of SC Department of Natural Resources.

I saw where a local media outlet attempted to get information on bear population in the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve from the SCDNR recently, only to be told the documents sought would cost $133.64.

Many South Carolina governments and their associated agencies attempt to hide behind the clause in the FOIA law that allows them to charge requesters for the cost of providing the informatiion. They frankly hope the cost won’t be paid and the information will stay secret.

Our own Horry County Solid Waste Authority is one of the worst transgressors.

But, this response to a request that has direct bearing on the continuing delay over permitting for International Drive was to be expected.

Specifically, SC Department of Natural Resources officials have, seemingly, intentionally held up finishing and paving the road bed of International Drive for over 10 years.

Initially the SCDNR attempted to keep Horry County from even considering expanding International Drive from its original dirt track through the woods into a passable, two lane road because of alleged red cockaded woodpeckers supposedly nesting in the right of way.

It was ludicrous, but underneath lay a bigger problem – for whatever reason, SCDNR did not want the road built.

After several years of being stalled, the county managed to solve problem by changing the position of the International Drive right of way to avoid the alleged woodpecker habitat.

As the county got into serious planning and acquired the funds to complete International Drive, SCDNR shifted its concerns to black bears in the woods near the road. This included forcing the county to plan for bear crossing tunnels underneath the road, raising the cost of construction and further delaying the start.

This SCDNR roadblock was, again, ridiculous. By this logic, most roads in Horry County, at least west of the waterway, should include bear crossing tunnels.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. James Vaught, a strong supporter of the International Drive project, asked a meeting of Horry County Council the question, “Where is a black bear going to cross the road?” He provided the answer in his own inimitable style, “Any damn where he pleases!”

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SC Republican Leader Seeks Infrastructure Debate

May 27, 2015 8:08 PM
REPUBLICAN MAJORITY LEADER SEEKS ROAD DEBATE

COLUMBIA, S.C. – In an attempt to address the State’s pressing highway infrastructure issue, Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler moved to deviate from the Order of business in the S.C. Senate to consider the roads bill. There were several attempts to prevent that motion by members of the democratic caucus, despite earlier statements that roads were their priority. However Senator Peeler’s motion prevailed stopping the current filibuster for the day. By doing so, the Senate gave third reading to the Pain Capable Bill, which would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks and began debate on the much anticipated bill regarding highway infrastructure.

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Sen. Tom Davis and SC Roads

May 23, 2015 7:02 AM
Sen. Tom Davis and SC Roads

Sen. Tom Davis, filibustering the Capital Reserve Fund bill (H 3702), talked much about roads this week.

Second reading of H 3579 is waiting on the SC Senate calendar behind two other contested bills, but a Davis filibuster this week of the reserve fund bill may give some indications of things to come for roads.

It appears one goal of the Davis filibuster is to defeat an increase in the state gas tax.

Davis criticized past decisions by SCDOT and the State Infrastructure Bank. But, including CTC’s in any decision making on road maintenance doesn’t work. While county governments would be tasked with maintaining their own current road network plus any additional roads dumped by the state, the CTC works independently from county government in 36 of the state’s 46 counties.

Davis’ solution is to dump state roads on counties, give a little more money to an independent committee within those counties and have the state essentially wash its hands of responsibility for approximately 50% of the roads it has not maintained throughout the years.

All in the name of not raising taxes.

This demonstrates the problem of electing people to public office who have no clue how to govern. An ideology of not raising taxes while passing fiscal problems down the line to the next lower government entity doesn’t work.

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Citizens Alliance Pushing Fix for S.C. Roads

January 21, 2015 8:00 AM
Citizens Alliance Pushing Fix for S.C. Roads

A citizens’ alliance is pushing S.C. General Assembly members to fix S.C. roads before the infrastructure collapses completely.

The S.C. Alliance to Fix Our Roads (SCFOR) is increasing online efforts to make the peoples’ voices heard in Columbia.

With the new legislative session just underway, SCFOR hopes to increase grassroots efforts contact state and local leaders to demand a plan to fix our roads.

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No TIGER Grant for Interstate 73

September 16, 2014 6:00 AM
No TIGER Grant for Interstate 73

Interstate 73 was not among the list of TIGER grant recipients announced late last week by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The S.C. Department of Transportation had requested $30 million to widen the shoulders on S.C. 22 to bring the road up to interstate standards so it could be redesignated I-73.

The USDOT didn’t think the project worthy of funding. Except for a few members of the local legislative delegation and a few tourism leaders, neither does anyone else.

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Former CEO Myers Rollins Sues Coast RTA, Others

June 19, 2014 8:15 AM
Former CEO Myers Rollins Sues Coast RTA, Others

Myers Rollins, former General Manager/CEO of Coast RTA, filed suit Tuesday against the agency he headed before being fired April 30th.

In addition to Coast RTA, Rollins is suing SCDOT, Coast RTA board members Bernie Silverman and Kitty D’Angelo, Horry County Council members Mark Lazarus and Gary Loftus, SCDOT employees Doug Frate and Hart Baker and interim Coast RTA General Manager Julie Norton Dew.

Rollins is seeking five million dollars in compensatory damages as well as punitive damages to be determined and reinstatement as GM/CEO of Coast RTA.

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Forgery Uncovered in Coast RTA Review

May 8, 2014 6:30 AM
Forgery Uncovered in Coast RTA Review

A letter from SCDOT that purportedly removed Coast RTA from being designated as a “High Risk Agency” is apparently a forgery, according to a follow-up letter from SCDOT.

Dated October 11, 2011, the letter, allegedly from SCDOT Deputy Secretary Hart Baker to Coast RTA General Manager Myers Rollins, states, “I have rescinded the letter (designating Coast RTA as High Risk Agency) and removed the Waccamaw Regional Transportation Authority’s designation as a “High Risk Agency”…”

In replying to a request for validation of the October 11, 2011 letter, SCDOT Director of Intermodal and Freight Programs Doug Frate sent a letter to Coast RTA board chairmen Bernie Silverman dated May 2, 2014. The letter said in part, “Please know that I have been informed that this letter was neither signed by or for Mr. Hart Baker, nor did it originate from the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT).”

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