With little opposition, the York County Council gave its initial nod to send the county's next phase of road-improvement projects, "Pennies for Progress," to voters in June for approval.
The council unanimously approved the first of three readings of a plan to allow voters to decide in June 2011 whether to approve the additional 1 cent sales tax for seven more years. If voters approve the tax, the county will embark on 26 major road-improvement projects totaling $161 million and covering 53 miles. In addition, the county will pave 39 gravel roads.
"You've never gotten more for a penny in your life, and you never will," said Councilman Curwood Chappell at the council's Monday night meeting in York.
In urging voters to approve the tax, Council Chairman Buddy Motz said: "If we don't do it, the state is not going to do it and it's not going to get done."
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A commission of volunteers from around the county whittled down a list of nearly a billion dollars in projects identified by the public and by municipal leaders as priorities to include on a list of $161 million in improvements. That's the amount of revenue the sales tax would likely generate.
Under state law, the council cannot change the list of projects; it can only accept or deny it altogether.
The plan approved Monday will undergo two more readings, including a public hearing before going to voters in June.
"There were a lot of projects we would have like to have added on ... but there's no bad list," as all road improvements equal saved lives, said Jerry Helms, commission chairman.
Some residents told the council they feel left out.
Melvin Poole said he is disappointed with the list, which excluded money for sidewalks on Finley Road, one of many projects considered that didn't make the cut.
The community around Finley Road in Rock Hill has wanted sidewalks for a long time and doesn't understand how the county chose some projects over "the safety of little children who walk back and forth on Finley Road every day," said Poole, president of the Rock Hill branch of the NAACP. School children "must decide whether to walk on the road or walk in a ditch," he said.
But Poole learned Monday night that Finley Road's sidewalk issues are being addressed - just slowly.
C-funds have been set aside to fund the sidewalks, said Councilman Roy Blake.
There are issues "behind the scenes" holding up the project, such as purchasing rights of way for placement of the sidewalks, said Phil Leazer, Pennies project manager.
"We're literally going to be putting sidewalks in people's front yards," Leazer said.
Still, Poole expressed doubts.
The problems on Finley Road aren't new, and he's been hearing for a long time that something's going to happen, he told the council.
Several sidewalk improvements were included in the 2011 Pennies list, Leazer said, including some associated with highway improvements and at Sullivan Middle School and Winthrop University.