Advisory committee planned to monitor Richland County penny projects

dhinshaw@thestate.comSeptember 18, 2012 

Richland County is looking to set up a 15-member citizen group to monitor progress on transportation improvement projects, should voters approve a penny sales tax in November.

A city-county transportation committee agreed Monday evening to recommend an advisory committee made of:

• Seven members appointed by Richland County, five of whom live in unincorporated areas;

• Three appointed by Columbia City Council;

• One each from Irmo, Forest Acres, Blythewood, Arcadia Lakes and Eastover.

If voters approve the tax, members would be appointed by Jan. 31.

The group would weigh proposals by county consultants or staff either to add or change any project already approved by the council.

The council has signed off and is publicizing nearly $1 billion in transportation improvements to roads, bus service and the countywide system of sidewalks, bike lanes and trails. The work would be done over the 22-year life of the proposed sales tax.

The work lists are the main thing the county is using to entice voters to the polls Nov. 6. The council has approved hundreds of projects included on the lists. (Click here to view proposed projects).

Still, some members of the public have questioned what would keep council members from changing their minds about which projects to do.

The advisory committee, which would make recommendations to Richland County Council, is seen as a way to address that skepticism. The council would have to publicly act on the advisory group’s recommendations.

Richland Councilman Jim Manning suggested that opponents of the sales tax be included on the advisory committee.

Councilman Kelvin Washington said that would be handled through “our regular appointive process,” which often takes diversity and geography into account when selecting citizen committees.

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