County Council discusses CTC, road repairs
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Darlington County Council convened their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, January 2, and discussed the county’s relationship with the County Transportation Committee.
The talks began after Council approved the receipt of $151,938 in CTC funds for improvements to Flatnose Road. Roughly half of this road is unpaved and becomes impassable during heavy rain, and residents visited Council and the CTC last year asking for help.
Council member Bobby Kilgo voted against receipt, maintaining his pattern of “no” votes on CTC matters as a protest against the perceived lack of autonomy granted Darlington County to prioritize its own road repairs.
“This is another situation where local government is being controlled by the legislature. Until they are willing to release and allow us to act as a governing body for a county – as was prescribed in the 1974-75 Local Government Act – we’re just sitting here as puppets,” said Kilgo.
Kilgo also brought up the poor condition of Commanchee Street (in the Centerville Community), which floods and becomes impassable along a roughly 3,200-foot section during heavy rain, and questioned why the CTC has not put Commanchee on its repair list despite repeated pleas from residents.
Council member Dannie Douglas (who motioned for approval of the funding) asked county administrator Charles Stewart how Flatnose Road was approved for repairs so quickly when other county roads have been in “way worse shape” for a longer period of time. Stewart replied that he couldn’t speak to the CTC’s reasoning, and that the county can only accept or reject the funding they offer for the projects they choose.
“The county doesn’t have any control over where they assign the assets that have been charged to them,” Stewart said of the CTC, adding that the items on County Council’s agenda are there so the county can use the state procurement process for these road improvement projects.
CTC money comes from the South Carolina Department of Transportation and requires no match from the county. Typically, the state budgets funds based on CTC requests, that money is then accepted or refused by county council, and the county’s Roads and Bridges Department then uses the money to construct or repair the designated roads.
This isn’t the first time Council has discussed the nature of their relationship with the CTC. At their January 3, 2017 meeting, Council voted 5 to 3 to approve distribution of $846,927 in CTC funds to resurface sixteen damaged county roads. Kilgo, Joyce Wingate Thomas, and Mozella “Pennie” Nicholson were the “no” votes. Before this vote, several members of council voiced concerns about how the CTC chooses which roads will receive attention.
Roads and Bridges director Bobby Richardson said at that meeting that the CTC “has always been willing to take recommendations from council” and they regularly ask for input from county staff when making their determinations.
Kilgo and council chair Bobby Hudson mentioned that in the past, Darlington County had control over the CTC, but now its members are appointed by the local legislative delegation and it does not answer to the county’s elected officials or staff.
Stewart confirmed that in some counties, the legislative delegation has relinquished control over the CTC and given that authority back to the county. As the discussion wrapped up, Council member Lewis Brown asked Stewart to look into the relationships other South Carolina counties have with their own CTCs, with respect to how many County Councils have control over their local CTC project list.
On the regular agenda, two ordinances related to a potential $300 million investment in solar energy came up for final reading, but Council opted to carry over these votes until February. Stewart explained that contract negotiations, which were discussed during the December 4 executive session, have not been finalized due to the holiday break.
The first of these ordinances, No. 17-17, would offer FILOT (Fee In Lieu Of Tax) agreements with an unnamed company involved in a solar energy development plan code named “Project Dates.” The ordinance extract states that “many solar projects are looking at South Carolina,” and the “conversion of agricultural property to solar property can produce significant increases in property tax revenue.” The extract also states that the unnamed company has represented that incentives are critical to their locating in Darlington County.
The company has assured Darlington County that a series of expenditures totaling over $300 million will be invested in 17 different solar power facilities before December 31 of 2022. Tax map searches for properties named in Project Dates show several small parcels and several large parcels scattered across multiple locations throughout the county.
The second ordinance, No. 17-18, would enlarge the boundaries of the Darlington-Florence Industrial Park to include property owned or operated by Project Dates.
Also on the agenda, Council approved the use of about $8,000 in contingency funds to pay for the annual employees’ appreciation banquet. They also approved $33,881 for low bidder Grant’s Flooring Gallery of Hartsville to install carpet and tile at the Hartsville Outreach Building on Fourth Street.
The next regular meeting of Darlington County Council is scheduled for 6 p.m. on February 5 at the Courthouse Annex located at 1625 Harry Byrd Hwy in Darlington. The meeting is open to the public.