York County to pay $3.2M more on Rock Hill street after budget error

jzou@heraldonline.comDecember 16, 2013 

— The York County Council on Monday agreed to spend $3.2 million more on a Rock Hill road project after a budgeting error was made and construction costs unexpectedly rose.

The council voted 6-1 in favor of the additional funding for improvements to White Street, raising the project’s total cost to $9.1 million – a 55 percent increase over the $5.9 million first budgeted in 2009.

The ongoing project, which involves widening lanes along White Street from downtown Rock Hill to Constitution Boulevard, is paid for through Pennies for Progress, the county’s road-building program that is financed by a 1-cent sales tax approved by voters.

Pennies program manager Phil Leazer told the council Monday night that the increase was the result of a recently discovered budgeting oversight and unanticipated cost overruns.

About $1.4 million in road design and right of way acquisition costs were mistakenly omitted from the project’s budget when it was first approved in 2009, Leazer said.

An additional $1.8 million in unanticipated costs arose when engineers realized they would have to relocate a business and rebuild a sidewalk.

Cost overruns are not uncommon with Pennies projects, which are often budgeted years before design and construction start.

Another Pennies project, the Fort Mill southern bypass, originally was budgeted at $15 million, but its cost swelled to $53 million when additional lanes were added to handle increased traffic.

Most Pennies projects have come in under budget, though, Leazer said.

The White Street project, which includes enhancements to a railroad crossing near Quantz Road, is being managed by the city of Rock Hill, which has also overseen bids. In this case, the city is paying for the cost of the project, and will be reimbursed by the county using money from the Pennies program.

Council Chairman Britt Blackwell said that, while the increased cost was a concern, White Street is “an artery” through the heart of Rock Hill’s developing Knowledge Park, the city’s effort to breathe life back into its old textile corridor.

Family Trust Federal Credit Union is building new headquarters on White Street under the premise that road improvements would be made, Leazer said.

The White Street project was one of the first Pennies projects in which the county partnered with the city, Leazer said, adding to the confusion about the $1.4 million budget item.

“The county was uncertain how much funding the city would need to complete the project, since the city was going to contribute some funding for economic development,” according to a county memo.

The city will pay $1 million to cover landscaping for the White Street project, but no city money will pay for right of way acquisition, design or construction.

“It’s not a big mistake in the scheme of things,” said Councilman Joe Cox, who voted to approve the measure.

Councilman Bruce Henderson cast the lone vote against the increase, citing the high cost.

Jie Jenny Zou •  803-329-4062

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