By Betsy Finklea
Latta mayor Nancy Brigman appeared before the Dillon County Council to discuss the utilities re-location of water and sewer lines that is being required by SCDOT (South Carolina Department of Transportation).
(A related story appeared in The Dillon Herald recently and is now online at www.thedillonherald.com.)
Brigman said these utilities are located outside of the Town of Latta in Dillon County. Brigman told the council that the ball is in their court, and it was time for the county council to look into what they need to do.
“It is upon us,” said Brigman, who told council that she had dealt with this for a month or two.
Brigman suggested that the council seek help from the federal government. Brigman said SCDOT said they had no money. “You can make more racket,” Brigman said.
Brigman said she was going to the governor’s office and had e-mailed President Barack Obama.
“What can you do as a county council to solve this?,” Brigman asked. The estimated cost to move the lines at Hwys. 301 & 501 and on Hwy. 917 West will cost about $1.8 million. She reiterated that the federal government is the answer. “What do you propose to do,” asked Brigman.
She said she was asking for the council to be a voice to the federal government.
A bill that has been introduced by Vincent Sheheen was briefly discussed, but it is thought that if passed it will not come in time to help Latta. Councilman Joe Johnson said they should look into the possibility of Latta getting under this bill or making the bill retroactive.
Brigman said they don’t get any revenue—just the water and sewer fees. “You’re reaping the revenue,” said Brigman, who told them they had to do something right away.
County Council Chairman Aron Gandy asked the county administrator and county attorney to look into it.
Brigman urged Gandy to stay behind the administrator and attorney or otherwise they were going to have to pay.
Note: The county administrator, Clay Young, received this letter from Mayor Nancy Brigman, and it was included in the council packet.
Dear Mr. Young:
In December of 2010, the South Carolina Department of Transportation contacted the Town of Latta to inform us that they will be relocating several roadways in and around the town in association with the new Interstate (I-73). The Town has several water and sewer lines within the rights-of-way that are being relocated and this project is requiring that our utility lines be relocated for this construction. The Town has been very actively searching for funding sources to pay for the utility relocations, with the only viable option being funding through Rural Development.
In July of 2011, the Town was approached by representatives of the SCDOT who offered to pay for the utility relocations in exchange for the Town taking over ownership and maintenance of a few roads within the Town’s limits. On October 5, 2011, the Town was again approached by the SCDOT representatives and was strongly urged to take the SCDOT agreement or the entire project would be suspended. The Town ultimately signed the agreement to keep the project from being suspended with the knowledge that there was a provision in the Agreement the roads to be returned to SCDOT if the Town could pay back the funds spent on the utility relocations. It was later determined that a loan through Rural Development would not be possible if the Town utilized SCDOT funds to relocate the utilities.
Rural Development has also indicated that funding through them is possible for this project, but no funds is currently available. It is anticipated that they will have funds available in the next couple of months and that Latta would be eligible for the funds at that time. If interim financing can be obtained for this project, we would be able to use the Rural Development funds to pay back the funds within the next 4-6 months. The Town would like to formally request consideration from Dillon County for any assistance they can provide with interim financing. The total project cost is approximately $810,000.
Time is of the essence. Since SCDOT has already started construction on the new roadways, they are pressing the Town for a decision. We appreciate your consideration.
Very truly yours,
Town of Latta