While York County scrambles to find money to finish road improvements adopted in 1997, officials already predict projects in the second "Pennies for Progress" could be delayed or downsized.
Plans to use 2003 interest money to fund 1997 projects means less money for future projects and those low on the list -- such as widening S.C. 160, Springhill Farm Road and Eden Terrace -- could suffer.
"Using the interest from 2003 means there'll be less money for 2003 projects when we get there," County Manager Jim Baker said. "I don't know yet how many projects that might affect. We need to define what we can deliver and what will need to be thrown in the basket for next time around."
Increased construction costs again plague the 1997 Pennies for Progress program, and this time, the county needs an additional $22.8 million to finish off the 14-project program. Poor communication and an accounting error prompted the county to take over project management from an outside firm. The transition from Capital Management and Engineering to soon-to-be-hired county staff could take eight months.
Interest expected to be generated from the 2003 program could make up for almost half of this shortfall. In January, Baker will discuss how he plans to find other money in the budget to finish projects.
"If we don't find additional funds, we could be in same situation down the road with 2003 projects," said Council Chairman Buddy Motz. "That's one of the problems were having -- estimating what funds will be."
To date, the 2003 project has earned only $4.1 million in interest. Baker says the full amount of interest from the 2003 program is expected to total $10 million by the time it expires in 2011.
Only part of one 2003 project -- the intersection of Shiloh and S.C. 5 -- has been completed. With the emphasis now on the 1997 program, it could be years before that list is finished.
Mount Gallant Road, S.C. 55, the Fort Mill Southern Bypass and 10 intersections being improved for safety top the 2003 list.
Estimates available for the 2003 projects predict all 25 projects will cost around $173 million to complete. Because the cost of 1997 projects has doubled in a decade, Baker wants to be prepared for similar increases.
Several projects topping the 2003 program list are in design phase, and construction has started for more than half of the 10 intersections in project No. 2.
To date, the county has collected more than $67.5 million in sales tax for the 2003 program. The council started the process last week to get new estimates on remaining projects.
Some roads that call for extensive leveling and filling in could be redesigned to save money, Baker said. Likewise, some bike paths could be eliminated.
"As we go forward, part of the estimating needs to look at the practicality of the design," Baker said. "We have a lot of work to do to get the very best value out of the 2003 projects that we can."
The county is confident that money to finish the remaining 1997 Pennies projects -- S.C. 901, Albright Road, Cherry Road and S.C. 5 bypass -- can be found in its budget. Baker said he is identifying ways to do that without making another area suffer.
York residents have been waiting for years for work on the S.C. 5 bypass, the site of a new school, but the county can't start work on the last project on the list until there's enough money to do all the projects higher than it.
Councilman Roy Blake suggested buying all of the right-of-way as soon as possible to save rising land costs. But Baker said because of the sequential nature of the program, right-of-way can't be acquired until the county has the money for the whole project. He said that's an area where savings could be built in the future.
Working in order is not as much of a "straight jacket" as it sounds, Baker added.
"If we know we have money for the next five projects, we can work on them at the same time," he said. "But we can't work on project 10 when we don't have enough money for one higher than it."
As the county phases out CME, Motz said he hopes the council has a better handle on the road projects.
"If we do come up with a shortfall again, it won't be new to us," he said. "The reaction of the county is to find the money to make up the difference. We'll search until we find the funds to do it."