County moves to increase road maintenance fee

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

At their regular monthly meeting on March 2, Darlington County Council took the first step toward increasing the $30 annual road maintenance fee to $44.25 per vehicle.

This measure, Ordinance 15-06, would provide the Roads and Bridges Department with contingency funds, money to purchase capital equipment, and replace old or broken down vehicles and heavy equipment. Without the fee increase, Roads and Bridges would have to reduce expenditures for the fiscal year 2015/16 budget by at least $780,000. Upping the fee could yield increased revenues that would offset these expenses. The total yield for the raised road maintenance fee would be approximately $2.43 million per year.

The idea for increasing the road maintenance fee was presented to council by former interim county administrator Tommy Edwards at a Feb. 11 work session. Council did not vote on the ordinance, as first reading requires no action.

Second reading for this ordinance will come sooner than usual, thanks to another change enacted by council. By unanimous consent, council agreed to resume a schedule of two meetings per month beginning March 16. These meetings will occur on the first and third Mondays of each month at 6pm. These meetings will take place at the Courthouse Annex, located at 1625 Harry Byrd Hwy in Darlington, unless otherwise noted.

This meeting was the first for newly installed county administrator Terence Arrington, and it was his idea to add a second meeting to council’s schedule to allow for discussion and – perhaps – better understanding of agenda items before council is required to vote.

Council member Le Flowers endorsed the two-meeting schedule, noting that it takes three months to pass an ordinance with only one meeting per month, and this revised schedule will allow council to be more responsive and better informed.

In other matters, council passed third and final reading on Ordinance 14-32, which reduces the document-copying fee charged by county offices from $1 per page to 25 cents per page.

Council passed second reading of Ordinance 15-03, a measure to increase the delinquent tax fee for real estate and mobile homes. Currently, those fees are $10 for properties delinquent as of March 17 (covering postage and processing), $20 as of July 1 (for postage and research) and $20 for those delinquent as of Sept. 1 (covering the cost of posting these delinquencies in local newspapers). These fees would be raised to $20, $40, and $60, respectively. These fees have not increased since 2005.

The ordinance extract states that in the current fiscal year, the Tax Collector’s Office spent $56,218 to mail notices, and $15,025 for advertising delinquent real for an estimated 4,500 parcels. By increasing these fees, the Tax Collector’s office could generate about $225,000 to offset postage and advertising expenses.

In closing, council members offered greetings and well-wishes to Arrington, though their comments were tinged with a little dark humor. Notably, vice chair Robbin Brock joked that he was glad Arrington “hadn’t left yet,” and Flowers warned the first-time head administrator that the road ahead might offer more than a few frustrations.

“You’re going to get blamed for things that you had nothing to do with, because you’re the guy now,” said Flowers.

Author: Duane Childers

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