Lancaster County's road maintenance budget is bare-bones, according to Public Works Director Darin Robinson, and can't adequately serve the roads in Indian Land's new communities.
The county's road maintenance budget is $1.7 million. With that, the department maintains 1,000 miles of roads in Lancaster County. The majority of those roads, 700 miles, are dirt roads, Robinson said.
Until the growth boom in Indian Land, the rural county had few paved roads, he added. Now, Robinson and his department are struggling to keep up with the county's growth and the increased wear and tear on county roads.
Last month, the Lancaster County Council voted not to accept roads in BridgeMill and Glen Laurel into the county road system, saying that new roads should not be added into the system until the county can properly maintain their existing roads. Glen Laurel's roads also weren't up to county standards, they said, but BridgeMill's roads exceeded the standards.
The road maintenance department doesn't have the resources or manpower to maintain additional roads, Robinson said. County Administrator Steve Willis compares the county's responsibilities to the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The SCDOT maintains only 900 miles of roads in Lancaster County, he said, but uses more than 40 employees. Robinson's department has only 16 and he can't imagine how his department could accommodate the new roads in the Panhandle, he said.
"There's no way," Robinson said. "You might not start incurring repairs and problems for several years, but the point would come when they will."
The road maintenance department doesn't even have the equipment required to maintain roads with curbs and gutters, Robinson said, a design most new neighborhoods use.
That isn't the only equipment the department lacks, said Willis.
"We've had calls asking, 'When are we sweeping the streets?' I say, 'Well, when's the next windstorm?' " Willis said.
Willis said he doesn't know when the road maintenance department will have enough funding to be properly staffed and equipped. He blames Act 388, South Carolina's Property Tax Reform Act which puts limits on how much the county can grow its annual budget.
"Given the restraints of Act 388, I'm not holding my breath," Willis said. "The current council is in a bind because past councils said 'No, we're not going to provide that level of service.' Now, even if we wanted to we literally can't."