The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
County Council April 17
Move to divert Federal funding to Folly/Camp Road intersection
Need for CHATS approvalWarwick Jones
There was only one item on the agenda for yesterday’s Finance Committee meeting. It was titled Maybank Highway Improvements Project. But it was much more than that. It was tied to the completion of the Folly/Camp Roads intersection improvements. After reading staff’s comments, we thought the issue was pretty simple. We still think it was, but in the minds of some Council members, it clearly wasn’t.
In essence, staff was recommending that some of the federal financing that became redundant with the change of plans for Maybank Highway is used to fund completion of the Folly/Camp Roads intersection. To do this, the agreement of Charleston Area Transport Study (CHATS) Policy Committee was first necessary and this needed to be sought. Staff noted and Council member Qualey vehemently supported the priority of this project.
But wait a minute said Council member Johnson. These funds were originally designated for Johns Island. Shouldn’t they stay there? Besides, they may be needed to fund work on Maybank Highway in the future. As Council member Schweers explained and he shouldn’t have needed to, the work on Maybank Highway to which the Council member was referring, had not been postponed, it was no longer necessary and had been “cancelled”. The original development plan has been superseded by the “pitchfork plan”, a plan supported by the City of Charleston, many Johns Island residents and others. The Federal funding, $15 million, was for the original plan. That plan had changed and work now planned in the “Town and County” section of the Highway as it is called, does not qualify for Federal Funding.
With Council member Johnson placated, the discussion moved on to the Folly Road intersection. This project originally was estimated to cost $15.4 million with funding coming from the half-cent sales tax. Although the funds are there, they are not enough. Based on bids received, the project will cost $22.3 million, over budget by $6.9 million. Staff said that the high bids partly reflected the cost of dealing with relocating utilities at the intersection. It has been working with agencies to ameliorate the problem and in the hope of reducing the cost of the project. However, considering the continuation of the discussion, nobody on the Committee thought the cost would fall to the budgeted level.
And then there were two other issues. The first was that under the terms of a possible Federal Grant, the County could expect only $6.4 million for the project. This left the County with the need to close the $400,000 gap. Some Council members did not think this was a large challenge, and indeed staff’s efforts to reduce the cost of utility relocation could do the job.
The second issue was whether CHATS, essentially providing the direction for Federal Funding of road work in the Tri Counties, would support the move. Council member Summey is the Chair of the Committee. This may help but there are representatives of the other Counties and with their own agendas. They may approve the funds for the Folly/Camp intersection. But will they allow the whole $15 million to remain in the County? Chairman Pryor and Council members Sass and Qualey are also members of CHATS. There are about 50 members of the CHATS Policy Committee.
It was a split vote at the end. Council members Johnson, Rawl and Summey were opposed to adopting the staff recommendation, and Council members Schweers, Qualey and Sass for. Council members Condon Darby were absent. Chairman Pryor did not vote and commented that he would let the issue be decided by a full Council on Tuesday evening.
Before the vote, Council member Johnson asked that the issue be given more time for consideration and Council member Summey stated that Council should first get the approval of CHATS before making a move.