Hartsville City Council peppered with questions and complaints
By Stephan Drew
During its November 7th meeting, Hartsville City Council faced a barrage of question and complaints regarding the poor conditions and disrepair on McLeod Road. The road,just off Home Avenue, and adjoined by RedFearn Lane and Lakeshore Drive, has developed sinkholes and other damage due to washouts from groundwater underneath.
Dan Askins, resident of 555 Lakeshore Drive, explained, “Over the past few years, we’ve watched McLeod Road deteriorate and develop sinkholes, which seem to stem from faulty pipes carrying groundwater from Goodson Road.” Askins said that when the city was asked, by several of the residents, to address the issue, the dfcity responded that it is a private road and not the city’s responsibility. Because of poor road conditions, too hazardous for city trucks to traverse, residents of McLeod Road have been asked to take their rolling trash carts to the end of the road for pickup. Askins stated, “Evidently, it’s okay for old widow women, infirmed gentlemen with heart conditions and the physically handicapped to fall into a hole, wrench their backs or have a heart attack while carrying up to 3 loaded trash cans downhill and back up again, a quarter of a mile roundtrip.” Askins continued, “We’ve tried to work with the city on this issue and have been rebuffed at every turn. Stormwater from Goodson Road is being dumped onto McLeod Road, which is causing significant and continuous damage.”
Grady Weaver, of 551 Lakeshore Drive, stated, “We’re asking for the city to help us. No one’s really said, ‘Let’s sit down and talk about this.’ We have no connection with Kalmia (recent lawsuit regarding road paving, etc.). We are not an HOA (Homeowners Association), we are concerned citizens who pay our taxes and we need your attention.” Weaver also presented a petition, from residents in the affected area, asking for support from and action by the council.
Mayor Casey Hancock was quick to agree. “This situation sucks,” Hancock said, “I think we all agree. We don’t like it any better than you do. And, you’re absolutely correct. One of the hingepoints here is that our hands are so tied because of the lawsuit on Kalmia. But, we are absolutely here to advocate on your behalf with DOT (SC Dept. of Transportation) or whatever agency might be involved.”
City Manager Daniel Moore explained, “Goodson Road is a SCDOT road. IT is owned and maintained by the state and taxes pay for that road. McLeod Road is not. As we know, it is a private road.” Moore went on to describe the history of the situation, “Sometime in the 1940s, there was a pipe attached from Goodson Road that then drains directly onto McLeod and McLeod then drains down towards Lakeshore. Then, Lakeshore, eventually, has a terminus at Prestwood.” Moore explained that SCDOT does not recognize any responsibility for condition or damages because MdLeod is classified as a private road. “It is an uphill battle,” Moore concluded.
Attorney Paul Cannarella, resident of 600 Redfearn Lane, discussed legal ramifications of not taking action. “This is jeapoardizing Dominion Energy’s easement, Your Easement for water, your easement for sewer and trash pickup,” Cannarella said, “So, y’all have a dog in the fight too because, it’s interfering with your easements. I don’t know about Kalmia (the lawsuit) but, I thought Kalmia was about paving the road. We’re talking about underneath the ground, real infrastructure.” Mayor Hancock responded, “Yes, we absolutely have a dog in the fight because we represent you.”
Councilmember Johnny Andrews voiced his concerns over the situation. “I sympathize but, the problem is private road, public money. We cannot legally spend public money on a private road,” he said.
Resident Hal Cummings of 558 Redfearn Lane stated, “We need your influence, your connections and your push.” Gus Dunlap of 533 Lakeshore Drive asked, “What if there’s a fire? What if you need an ambulance up there? It’s a safety issue.”
Councilmember Bobby McGee suggested possible action by the residents themselves. He asked, “While we’re waiting to find a solution, is there anything that you, the residents, can do that wouldn’t be permanent but, yet would at least, from a safety standpoint, maybe insure safe conditions?”
Sharman Poplava of 547 Lakeshore Drive responded, “We are not an HOA and we are hamstrung because we cannot fill in these holes without accepting some responsibility for the infrastructure underneath it. We are asking for your help in this.” Sara Vaughn of 506 McLeod Rd. reiterated Poplava’s comments when she said, “There’s only so much we can do to amend the infrastructure, even temporarily, that is within any personal budget on a road that is not legally ours as residents.” Council assured the residents they would study the situation more carefully and consider what action, if any, may be taken legally by the City.
In other business, Council also issued a proclamation, honoring CareSouth Carolina’s work with HIV/AIDS sufferers and proclaiming December 1st as World AIDS Day. Two newly hired city employees were introduced to council. Haley Gates has been hired as Marketing and Special Projects Coordinator with the City Tourism and Communications Department. LaShawn Reams has been hired as the new Special Events Assistant.
Resolution 11-22-02 was passed, creating a closer partnership between council and the student body of Coker University. Coker Student Body President Christopher Reames told council, “We will be collaborating more so that both parties can benefit by creating a stronger college town.” Mayor Hancock praised councilmember Bryson Caldwell for his efforts to create this partnership.
Council also passed Resolution 11-22-03 which allows for the spending of $500 thousand in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Hartsville received $3.75 million from ARP and has approximately $1 million remaining. This measure would allow for the upgrading the present surveillance system and add more cameras around the city. City Manager Daniel Moore explained that he had researched several camera models and found one which is not only compatible with the present system but also incorporates Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to better identify perpetrators of crime as well as decrease the response time for emergency personnel. Myrtle Beach has similar equipment and, after purchase and installation, Hartsville will become the smallest town in South Carolina to utilize such a system.
Council next meets on Tuesday, December 13th.