York Co. staff seeks $3.2 million more for ‘Pennies’ project on White Street

jzou@heraldonline.comDecember 3, 2013 

  • White Street project

    Project: White Street Improvements/Quantz-Poe Railroad Crossing

    2009 budget: $5,919,499

    Requested increase total: $3,241,845

    New project total: $9,161,344

    Itemized request:

    • Original design and right-of-way: $1,471,263*

    • Additional design and right-of-way: $791,529

    • Additional updates: $979,053**

    * Represents figure mistakenly left out of 2009 budget

    ** Includes costs of sidewalk construction, cross-street transitions, and utility relocation

— County engineers are seeking $3.2 million more to complete road improvements on White Street in Rock Hill, after staff failed to properly account for costs in 2009 and project expenses rose.

The White Street project, which is funded by the county’s “Pennies for Progress,” will stretch from Dave Lyle Boulevard to Constitution Boulevard and include additional lanes and an updated sidewalk. A nearby railroad crossing will be adjusted to create safer driving conditions.

The Pennies program is a referendum-based initiative that uses an additional 1-cent sales tax to fund various road enhancements countywide.

The White Street project is one of 14 approved by York County voters in 2003, with an original budget of $5.9 million set in 2009. With the boost, the project will be 55 percent costlier at a total of $9.1 million.

Nearly $1.5 million of the proposed increase is a result of a 2009 error, according to Phil Leazer, Pennies for Progress program manager.

“It was our mistake,” Leazer said of the oversight. In 2009, the county asked the York County Council for a total budget of $5.9 million but failed to include $1.5 million for design and right-of-way acquisition costs.

This particular project was the first time the county decided to partner closely with a municipality, the city of Rock Hill, Leazer said, which added to confusion when the budget was set.

Staff first alerted members of the council about the cost overrun during a committee meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Council Chairman Britt Blackwell said he had “big concerns” about the cost spike and that he needs more details about why the design and rights-of-way costs were mistakenly omitted before the measure comes to council for a formal vote.

The remaining $1.8 million of county staff’s request comes from unforeseen costs that arose as engineers began to finish Phase I of the project, which completed a block of White Street at Wilson Street.

Leazer said the county had to relocate a heating and air conditioning business located on White Street once staff realized there would not be enough room to reinstall utilities with the allotted space. When roads are widened or repaired, underground utilities such as water and Internet cable must be relocated.

The existing sidewalk also will need to be ripped out entirely due to multiple cracks that make it unsuitable for repair, Leazer said. He added that, if approved, the $3.2 million will come from tax funds collected specifically for the Pennies program from 2004 to 2011.

The county is funding the project, but the city of Rock Hill is in charge of execution, including awarding construction bids, Leazer said. That means the county reimburses the city for construction costs and other charges relevant to the Pennies program.

The city of Rock Hill is fronting costs of its own to cover additional enhancements that will make the sidewalk more decorative, such as landscaping. So far, the city has chipped in $200,000 of its money for some of those adjustments, according to county engineers.

Phase II of the project is underway and will extend the improvements to Constitution Boulevard and also readjust the railroad crossing near Quantz and Poe streets so drivers can better see oncoming train traffic.

“These projects become so complicated and time consuming,” Leazer said of the nature of the Pennies program, pointing out that it’s been a decade since the project was first conceptualized.

Jie Jenny Zou •  803-329-4062

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