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County Council, June 19

Council to take the money for Mark Clark extension
State should pick up any cost over-run
Warwick Jones

Council voted to proceed with the agreements with the SC Department of Transport (DOT) and the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB). Last week, the Finance Committee considered the agreements but some members were daunted by the liability the County would endure if there were a considerable cost overrun. Discussion with State legislators and the promise that the State would pick up the overrun, comforted the majority of Council members and only two, Council members Schweers and Inabinett voted against the agreements last night.

Late last year, the County obtained a $420 million grant from the SIB to meet the cost of the I-526 extension. County Attorney Dawson told the Council that in his opinion, if the cost exceeded this amount, the County was liable for the excess. His warning was taken very seriously. Given the propensity for road construction projects to exceed original estimates, the excess could be considerable and make more than a dent in County coffers.

Assurance from State Legislators
We don’t know all the details but the possibility that Council might vote against the agreement – the Finance Committee vote last week was split 4/4 with one Council member absent - spurred some hustling from Columbia. Chairman Scott and Council member Condon noted that they had talked to House Speaker Harrell about the issue. He had assured them that the County would not be left on the hook and the State would assume the liability. Other Council members also acknowledged the receipt of similar assurances though they did not say from whom. The Post and Courier today reported the Representative Stavrinakis, Council’s Chairman last year, had also encouraged Council members to sign the agreement.

Need to get acknowledgment from State
The persuasion clearly worked considering the final vote but Chairman Scott suggested that it would be a good idea to get some acknowledgment from the State about the assumption of any liability relating to cost overruns. No motion was made, or vote taken, but we hope good sense will ensure that the County follows up with this request.

In response to a question by Council member Pryor, County Attorney Dawson said that the County had the responsibility of supervising the project. It could do this by hiring a consultant or by using staff. It also had monitoring and reporting obligations.

Concern for roads on Johns and James Islands
Council member Inabinett spoke of his concern about the roads connecting the new highway to James and Johns Islands. There is a need for attention, he said. This concern was also expressed by Council member Thurmond who specifically noted Bohicket and River Roads. Council member Schweers also noted that the completion of I-526 would stimulate the need for more roads. How much funding will be available for new roads on its completion, he asked? Not very much, he implied.

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