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York County ‘Pennies’ road work leader resigns

Phil Leazer, project manager of York County’s Pennies for Progress program, has resigned.
Phil Leazer, project manager of York County’s Pennies for Progress program, has resigned. HERALD FILE PHOTO

The man in charge of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of York County road construction projects during the past seven years has stepped down.

Phil Leazer, project manager of the county’s Pennies for Progress program, told The Herald on Tuesday that he resigned, effective last Tuesday.

The Pennies program is York County’s funding arm for building new roads. Voters have approved the 1 percent sales tax three times since 1997.

Four years ago, when 82 percent of York County voters supported paying for more Pennies road projects, Leazer says his phone lit up. He was asked to make presentations to other South Carolina counties that were interested in starting similar road funding initiatives.

Some were surprised in 2011 when York County residents said “yes” to paying 1 percent more in sales tax in the midst of an economic downturn.

“That really kind of made a bold statement across the entire state,” Leazer said.

Since then, he said, he’s been mulling a departure from York County. A different position and new opportunity are best for his career, he said.

Leazer said he’s pursuing two other job opportunities. Both are transportation positions – similar to the Pennies manager job – with other government agencies.

Before taking over as manager of Pennies, Leazer worked in other positions related to York County’s transportation and road funding needs. In 1988, he was hired to help the county come up with new ways to pay for paving area gravel roads.

He’s leaving York County’s Pennies project in good shape, Leazer said. He added that the program recently received a positive report from an auditor.

“The Pennies program is not going to miss a beat,” Leazer said.

But, there may be some changes in store for Pennies.

York County Manager Bill Shanahan said on Tuesday that the county may consider hiring a consultant to review the program. A road sales tax program, he said, can adopt one of several models.

Currently, there are about 35 active Pennies road projects in York County. The program has been visible around the county with projects like the widening of S.C. 5 near York; construction of the Fort Mill Southern Bypass; adding lanes to Albright Road; and multiple improvements at major intersections on busy highways.

Much of the Pennies project work is done by county employees. But, consultants are often used because of the limited number of employees.

A review consultant, Shanahan said, could study whether it may be more cost-effective and efficient for a single firm to manage Pennies projects.

York County Manager Bill Shanahan said on Tuesday that the county is paying for a consultant to review the program. A road sales tax program, he said, can adopt one of several models.

Currently, there are about 35 active Pennies road projects in York County. The program has been visible around the county with projects like the widening of S.C. 5 near York; construction of the Fort Mill Southern Bypass; adding lanes to Albright Road; and multiple improvements at major intersections on busy highways.

Much of the Pennies project work is done by county employees. But, consultants are often used because of the limited number of employees.

The recently-hired review consultant, Shanahan said, will study whether it may be more cost-effective and efficient for a single firm to manage Pennies projects.

When York County launched Pennies in 1997, an outside firm managed the program. Budget overruns and lagging project timelines prompted county leaders to rethink the Pennies setup and the program management was moved in-house.

Shanahan said the county is already using a single firm to manage its largest facility projects such as the ongoing courthouse renovation in downtown York and construction of a new firefighter training center. Other York County departments, he said, have also had recent program reviews to identify places the county could save money and time.

No matter what, Shanahan said, “York County will not lose control of the Pennies program.”

Blackwell: Leazer was ‘solid employee’

Leazer’s old job is currently posted as available on the county’s website. Work will continue as normal while it’s unfilled, Shanahan said.

Assistant County Engineer Ron Pompey is temporarily in the position until a permanent person is chosen.

Shanahan said, “I don’t expect Pennies to slow down in any way, shape, or form.”

Leazer agreed, saying Pennies engineers and staff members were prepared for his departure. Those who worked with him on the road projects, he said, have “an awesome handle on things.”

He’s most enjoyed doing work that positively impacts York County residents’ lives, Leazer said. Serving taxpayers and making a difference matters greatly to him, he said.

“I want to do that for some of these other counties that are getting into a road sales tax program.”

York County Council Chairman Britt Blackwell said Tuesday that Leazer played a major role in moving projects along after the county stopped outsourcing the Pennies management work.

“You could always count on him whenever you had a road question. He was always helpful,” Blackwell said. “He will be greatly missed. He was a solid employee.”

Editor’s note: This article was corrected on Wednesday. York County is considering hiring a consultant to review Pennies for Progress and identify ways to possibly make the program more efficient. But, that process has not yet been started.

Herald reporter Bristow Marchant contributed.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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