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Mayor: Rock Hill open to aid Blackmon Road area

The city of Rock Hill is open to playing a role in new plans for Blackmon Road, Mayor Doug Echols said Tuesday.

"We're always happy to sit down and partner with those who are trying to make a difference," Echols said. "I'd love to see a broader range of opportunities for anybody in a situation where people are struggling."

The comments come a day after York County Council members chided Rock Hill for not doing enough to help the impoverished community, situated on a dirt road just outside the city limits.

Most residents live without water, sewer or electricity in their homes.

"It's nice to see how Rock Hill is a leader ... in many things," County Councilman Tom Smith of Lake Wylie said. "It would be nice to see them step up to the plate with this."

Added County Council Chairman Buddy Motz: "There isn't any doubt, if this were a Wal-Mart or something, the city certainly would be very interested in annexing it."

It was the latest round of volleying over a dilemma that has vexed local leaders for years.

The question revolves around how much public money makes sense in an isolated area home to 56 people. Some officials point out it would be cheaper to build new homes in another location and let Blackmon Road residents live in them.

Blackjack soil studded with rocks makes it expensive to build roads and extend water and sewer lines to the community's 15 dwellings.

An undercurrent in the debate has been whether Blackmon Road is mainly a city or county responsibility. Rock Hill city limits stop just short of the area.

"We've been very productive in working without the city's assistance," said Karen McKernan, director of a nonprofit that helps Blackmon Road residents.

"It's not as if progress is going to stop without the city's support. I think it would be great if they helped, not just with money but with management and advice once housing goes in."

The nonprofit, called A Place for Hope, has focused on bringing basic services to the area. A wash house with showers, toilets, washers and dryers is set to open in May.

Echols said he hasn't been briefed on new goals given final approval by York County on Monday night. As for the quips about shopping centers and Wal-Marts, the mayor wasn't having it.

"I'm not interested in getting into a back-and-forth with the county," Echols said Tuesday.

"The most important thing for us to do is focus on action steps and solutions. Hopefully, that's what their master plan does. It would've been nice if we'd have been provided a copy."

A new master plan calls for two to four new rental apartments to serve as models for future housing. As new housing is completed, code inspectors will condemn and tear down dilapidated homes.

The timeline sets five years as the target for reaching these goals.

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