Some South Carolina counties where voters have raised the sales tax to fund road projects have hired transportation engineers to manage the workload.
In Richland County, consultants suggest it would cost $31 million to administer the proceeds from a sales tax collected for 20 years.
That’s about 3 percent of the total proceeds — which is standard, said David Beaty, regional manager of Florence & Hutcheson in Columbia, one of a handful of transportation-focused engineering firms in S.C. likely to compete for the job.
“Three to 5 percent is the program management fee, and that would be over the life of the program,” Beaty said.
Richland County Council is poised to put a transportation sales tax on the Nov. 6 ballot. The 1-percent tax would raise nearly $1 billion for roads, public transit and pedestrian improvements.
A final decision is expected July 18.
Program managers coordinate the design, construction, inspection, financial and legal services on multiple projects at once, county officials say.
Typically, a county will borrow money so construction can get under way quickly in every corner of the county. Then, the loan is repaid as the sales-tax money rolls in.
Richland County would plan to borrow $450 million, allowing it to make quick work of a lot of the projects on its priority list.
Charleston County voters passed a sales tax that went into effect in 2005. The county hired the Michael Baker/LPA Group.
“We felt like the prudent thing to do, for us, would be to hire a program management firm, just because of the sheer number of employees that it would take to properly manage our program,” said Jim Armstrong, assistant county administrator for transportation and public works. “We identified in excess of 100 people to manage the program, and they would be on the payroll forever.”
In addition to a program manager, Richland County Council has agreed it would want to establish a new position of transportation director. The job description has not been set out.
But council chairman Kelvin Washington said the intent would be to have a point person on staff keeping track of all projects “so they can report to us.”
Berkeley County has taken a different approach. For the most part, it manages its road projects in-house — and with no additional staff.
With 28 projects active now, county engineer Frank Carson said he would recommend hiring a manager. “It’s a strain sometimes,” he said.
Work on some state roads is being handled by the SC Department of Transportation, he added.
Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.