Rock Hill wants stormwater issue, Knowledge Park separated

Rock Hill officials are pushing to remove one potential hurdle from the extension of the special tax district around Knowledge Park.

The ability to move ahead on that long-term development of downtown Rock Hill’s former industrial area ultimately may depend on whether the city has spent enough elsewhere on citizens’ stormwater drainage issues.

York County Councilman William “Bump” Roddey has tied county approval of a 10-year extension to the tax district to greater efforts to alleviate flooding on some residential streets in his district. Last week, Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols sent Roddey a letter along with a copy of the city’s stormwater plan and made sure members of the media were included.

“I am sure you would agree that our level of attention to stormwater issues in our community has been quite comprehensive,” Echols writes in the letter. “Clearly there is plenty of work to do in Rock Hill as we have identified nearly 100 years’ worth of work.”

Rock Hill’s stormwater master plan surveyed more than 36,000 acres of property, according to the letter. The city’s stormwater department has completed $14 million in projects since 1996, and another $13 million worth of projects already are scheduled. The city recently increased its stormwater rates to complete more projects on a faster timetable.

But Echols is also adamant that the city’s stormwater issues should not impede approval of the Knowledge Park extension.

“What we are not going to do is negotiate on that over the Knowledge Park (tax) district,” Echols said to The Herald on Sunday. “I’d be willing to sit down and discuss our stormwater plan with (Roddey), but those are two separate things.”

But Roddey is equally adamant that the city must focus its resources on improving stormwater issues in residential areas, a frequent complaint he hears from constituents. He’s particularly irked when the city points out that many of the problems are on streets maintained by the state Department of Transportation, and not the city.

“The city still collects stormwater fees if you live on a state-maintained road,” he said. “If you take my stormwater fees, you can’t send me somewhere else when it’s time to fix the problem.”

Roddey said he had not had a chance to review the full packet of stormwater information as of Sunday, since it was mailed to his official York P.O. box ahead of Monday’s county council meeting. Instead, he responded to the points in Echols’ letter.

He rejected Echols’ suggestion of a countywide stormwater fee, arguing that other municipalities would then want the county to pay for their water infrastructure. Roddey also said county council is unlikely to use funds raised by the Pennies for Progress road repair program to fix stormwater problems.

“To think that revenue stream is going to include stormwater drainage installation, that’s just not going to fly.”

Instead, Roddey said Rock Hill needs to coordinate its plan with the state to fix problems in these areas.

“That shouldn’t involve the county, but I’m willing to get involved if it gets the ball rolling,” Roddey said.

But Echols was dismissive of any involvement that doesn’t include spending additional money on the issue.

“Heck no, he doesn’t want to put county funding into it,” Echols said. “All these areas are in the county, so if he has concerns, he should raise them in his area of influence, and bring some funding to the table. If county council brings up the issue, they should be willing to spend some funds on it.”

The mayor also noted that under a state roads reform plan currently in the Legislature, some of these streets may soon be turned over to the county anyway.

Despite his stance on stormwater, Roddey overall remains a supporter of the Knowledge Park initiative. Roddey plans to discuss the issue with Rock Hill City Council members Sandra Oborokumo and Ann Williamson, whose districts are most affected by stormwater flooding, before deciding how to go forward.

The county councilman said he’s always found Rock Hill’s public works department responsive when he raises particular stormwater issues with them, “but I don’t know that the average citizen gets that same kind of response.”

York County has to approve extending Knowledge Park’s tax status because it requires the county to forgo tax money that instead goes into improving the district. The city’s planned extension would draw that status out until 2039.