LEXINGTON

Lexington County tax plan crafted for wide appeal

tflach@thestate.comMay 8, 2014 

Lexington County Seal

  • Adviser eligible for some work

    The company serving as an adviser to the panel preparing Lexington County’s package of sales tax projects is eligible to work on some parts of the plan afterward.

    Alliance Consulting Engineers can help guide completion of up to 10 percent of the $268.1 million plan under a deal with County Council.

    That limit was adopted to assure work is spread among several companies, Council Chairman Johnny Jeffcoat of Irmo said.

    “We knew there would be some concern” about favoritism without a restriction, he said.

    Council members selected Alliance last fall after privately interviewing a half dozen firms, citing the company’s experience in shaping such packages in picking it for the job.

    The choice drew complaints that the company is based outside the county. It is receiving $450,000 as the panel’s adviser.

— An advisory panel settled Thursday on a package giving every community in Lexington County something from a $268.1 million package of projects supported by a proposed penny on the dollar sales tax.

The six panel members settled on 69 projects spread across 15 municipalities as well as other areas throughout the 720-square-mile county.

View full list at bottom of page

Its plan is likely to be submitted to voters for approval Nov. 4.

Panel chairman Mike Crapps of Lexington characterized the package as “a good balance.”

The selections are those “most impactful” in communities and for commuters, cargo haulers, sports buffs and other interests, he said.

About $194 million in transportation-related projects – roads, sidewalks and paths – compromise nearly three-fourths of the proposed spending from the package.

Major road projects in the plan include widening Longs Pond Road off I-20; adding a new entrance off I-26 to an industrial area near Cayce; widening Columbia Avenue from I-26 through the center of Chapin; paving about 40 miles of dirt roads; and a new path along the lower Saluda River with an arm into West Columbia near I-26.

Water, sewer and drainage projects total about $53 million.

Many of those are in Cayce and West Columbia, with some aimed at ending neighborhood floods in heavy rain.

Others will enable parts of Springdale, Pine Ridge and scattered neighborhoods along the south shore of Lake Murray to end reliance on wells and septic tanks as well as to receive fire hydrants.

The remaining $21 million is mainly for recreation, with a few new buildings for towns added. That list includes a path in Pelion, baseball fields in Gaston, civic centers in Gaston and Swansea, and library upgrades in Lexington, Cayce-West Columbia, and Irmo.

The selections – many bundled in groups – were chosen from nearly 400 ideas submitted.

Their costs range from $54,150 to replace a water pipe in Springdale to $45.6 million to widen about a mile of Longs Pond Road from Lexington to Red Bank.

Panel members are developing another $90 million in additional projects that would happen if revenue from the tax is higher than predicted, some projects are canceled or if some come in at lower cost.

The plan goes to County Council, whose nine members must authorize the Nov. 4 referendum. Council members can only accept the plan or reject it, with no ability to change it.

Council approval is expected.

“There may be pieces and parts some of us don’t like but, overall, it’s a great benefit,” council chairman Johnny Jeffcoat of Irmo said of the panel’s choices.

The new tax would cost county residents an average of about $110 through 2023, with purchases of groceries and prescription medicine exempt.

Supporters – many of them political and business leaders – say the tax is the only way to pay for long-wanted improvements.

Scattered complaints come from those opposed to tax increases and skeptics of some features in the package.

Proposed roads projects

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