York County is closer to determining its next seven years of road-improvement projects.
A commission formed to finalize the list of projects met Monday night and applauded the list for its fairness to all communities in the county.
The commission made up of volunteers representing Fort Mill, Tega Cay, Clover, Lake Wylie, western York County and Rock Hill whittled a list of nearly $1 billion dollars worth of roads projects down to around $160 million. That's the revenue county leaders expect to generate from the "Pennies for Progress" sales tax program over the next seven years.
Before the county can get to work on the projects, the York County Council must approve the list and then voters will decide in a June 2011 referendum whether they want to continue paying the added 1 cent on the dollar tax for roads.
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Projects that didn't make the list this time will become priorities next time, said Jerry Helms, chairman of the commission.
"We hope that people understand that Pennies is not a race with a finish line. It's a race without one, and has the potential to move on even past this commission," Helms said.
The commission selected projects from lists generated by each region of the county. A handful of top priorities from each region made it onto the 2011 list.
Finalizing the list signals the end of an 18-month process of meetings held all across the county to get feedback from municipalities and residents on projects most important to them, said Phil Leazer, Pennies project manager.
Carl Dicks, who represents Rock Hill on the commission, said those meetings helped them determine what projects the public wanted. He got a lot of feedback from vocal members of the cycling and Winthrop communities.
Several commissioners were satisfied with the spread of projects across the county.
"It worked out good for everybody," Dicks said.
Pennies has been a primary source of road improvement dollars since it began in 1997. Using a pay-as-you go system, funding projects as sales tax revenue becomes available has led to delays.
Slow-moving projects led to complaints from residents as well as unexpected costs, county officials have said.
To jump-start projects, county officials considered asking voters to allow the county to borrow money up front. But now they're leaning away from that idea, fearing the public will reject it.
"The sentiment of the public is, don't borrow anymore - we've done all the borrowing we need to do," Leazer said.
Instead, county officials are exploring funding opportunities through the state at 0 percent interest, Leazer said.
The commission endorsed that plan.
"Hopefully, what we've done is got this program back on track," Helms said. "This is really a special program that truly belongs to the people."