Frustrated drivers have reason for hope in the city of Rock Hill’s budget plans. An additional $300,000 will be included this year to pave bumpy streets, with an emphasis on combating potholes.
State-maintained roads will likely see improvements as well, after the City Council reviewed the proposed budget in a special workshop meeting Thursday.
The recommended budget for fiscal year 2016 includes increased funding for paving from $500,000 to $800,000. The city’s “road maintenance initiative” has grown steadily over the past three budget cycles, but this year’s proposal is the largest growth in paving funds in recent years.
Funding for road paving increased year-on-year by $50,000 between 2012 to 2014, and the current budget added another $100,000 to that. If Thursday’s budget proposal is adopted, the initiative will have grown by $500,000 in five years. A provisional 2017 budget proposal would increase road funding yet again, to $1.1 million.
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That money is in addition to any new state road funding that could be passed this session by the General Assembly, but many council members on Thursday sounded committed to moving forward on state roads within the city limits, too.
Councilwoman Sandra Oborokumo said Rock Hill “needs to eliminate” the tendency to tell frustrated residents there’s nothing the city can do about deteriorating streets maintained by the S.C. Department of Transportation.
Fellow council member Ann Williamson agrees.
“People in my ward feel left out,” Williamson said. “I have to tell my constituents that too many times, and they are angry that they don’t get any attention. For the taxes they pay, they want service.”
But Councilman Kevin Sutton worries that such a plan will allow the state to abdicate its responsibilities for roads and create new demands on the city’s finances.
“It’s a slippery slope if we take on state roads,” he said. “Money they should spend here will start flowing to other counties.”
But waiting on the state to act leaves the city in a “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” position, said City Manager David Vehaun.
If the state transportation department doesn’t pave a street, it creates pressure on the city to handle it. Councilman John Black said if DOT workers won’t fill a pothole, the city should bill the state for the cost and material to do so.
Funding in this year’s budget would pay to pave the equivalent of an additional three miles of a one-lane road beginning July 1. Also included in the proposal is money for two new pothole trucks and an additional worker for the Public Works Department’s street division, which will allow staff to man the pothole trucks.
The budget proposal pays for these changes through a projected $300,000 in savings from reduced fuel charges, as well as $60,000 from raising the business license cap on manufacturers and car dealers.
Bristow Marchant • 803-329-4062