‘state of the penny’

Citizens group group overseeing Richland’s sales tax projects to hold progress meeting

dhinshaw@thestate.comDecember 4, 2013 

— The citizens watchdog committee for Richland County’s new transportation sales tax will hold a “state of the penny” meeting this month.

Hayes Mizell, chairman of the Transportation Penny Advisory Committee, acknowledges progress won’t “knock your socks off.” But he said the 15 members of the citizens group felt it important to keep information flowing to the public.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. Dec. 16 at the County Administration Building, 2020 Hampton St.

Rob Perry, the county’s first-ever transportation director, and Bob Schneider, head of the Central Midlands Transit service, will make presentations.

“I’m describing this as an oral version of a typical annual report,” Mizell said.

In addition to hiring a transportation director who started in August, the county has done the preliminary work required to hire a team of consultants to manage the multitude of transportation projects that will be going on at the same time. Thursday was the deadline for applicants.

The most tangible improvements so far have been in the arena of public transit. The system now called the COMET has improved routes and schedules, and is preparing to buy new buses.

Mizell said those attending will have an opportunity to ask questions, but presenters won’t be prepared to give details on upcoming projects. “We don’t want to talk about what might happen in 2014, but we want to talk about what has actually happened since the passage of the referendum,” he said.

A year ago, voters approved the local sales tax by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent with proceeds to be divided among roads, public transit and trails. Collections began in May, and no projects have been done yet.

“There was – and among some people still is – some concern about transparency, so this is an opportunity to communicate what has been happening,” Mizell said.

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