Road drainage problem discussed at Rock Hill budget meeting

adouglas@heraldonline.comApril 2, 2013 

— The recurring problem of standing water on roads after rain needs a solution, several Rock Hill residents said at Tuesday’s Ward 1 neighborhood meeting with Mayor Doug Echols and City Councilwoman Sandra Oborokumo.

About 50 people attended Tuesday’s meeting at the Boyd Hill Community Center – the first meeting of its kind with council members and the mayor. Other ward meetings are planned over the next few weeks.

Rock Hill’s Ward 1 includes communities such as Sunset Park, Boyd Hill and Benjamin Ridge.

Many of the same residents at Tuesday’s meeting voiced similar complaints about the stormwater problem at a meeting with city officials two years ago. Now, they said, the problem is still there.

The issue isn’t being ignored, Oborokumo said, and it “remains on the agenda.” City staff members have been looking for ways to pay for improvements to fix the problem, and proposals could be approved soon, she said.

Oborokumo is in her first term on the City Council. She took over for former Councilwoman Susie Hinton in November 2012 after Hinton moved out of the district.

Ward 1’s geographical low point in relation to the rest of the city is part of the reason heavy rains cause standing water on streets and in yards, Oborokumo said.

“The water’s going to travel down,” she said.

Stormwater drainage issues could contribute to the standing water, Oborokumo said. Drainage problems could start several neighborhoods away, but the standing water appears in Ward 1.

Melvin Poole, president of the Rock Hill NAACP chapter, said the city needs public transportation for people without cars to shop, get to work and travel around the city.

Surveys show that many residents want the service, Echols said.

“But I also know that it is extremely expensive,” he said.

Existing systems such as the on-demand York County Access shuttle service and a CATS bus running between Charlotte and Rock Hill meet some of the city’s transportation needs, Echols said.

Although Rock Hill’s population is growing, he said, the city doesn’t “have the critical mass to support” a new transportation system.

Tuesday’s meeting comes three weeks before the first of two budget workshops to set spending priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.

Rock Hill doesn’t plan to increase property taxes, Echols said, but utility rates will likely go up.

“I would expect that there’s going to be a minor increase – particularly in electric (rates),” he said.

The city is “locked in,” he said, to a contract with the Piedmont Municipal Power Agency – a consortium of 10 cities in South Carolina which provides electricity to residents and businesses.

City officials predicted last year that PMPA might raise its rates as much as 7 percent in May 2013. Last year, PMPA raised its rate by 6.7 percent – resulting in Rock Hill customers paying about $4 more each month for electricity after the City Council voted to absorb about half of the rate hike.

Rock Hill is on the “good end” of the deal, which gets its power from the Catawba Nuclear Station, Echols said. Duke Energy recently asked for a 16 percent rate increase for residential customers, pending approval by the Public Service Commission of South Carolina.

Rock Hill residents won’t see their electric rates spike as much as Duke’s customers could, Echols said, because Duke needs more money to build a new nuclear station, and the Catawba Nuclear Station meets PMPA’s needs.

The next neighborhood meeting is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Westminster Health & Rehabilitation Center garden room at 1330 India Hook Road. Councilwoman Kathy Pender and Echols will meet with residents from Ward 2.

Meetings are held within each council member’s ward, but anyone may attend any meeting.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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