November 24, 2012

Penny tax ‘watchdog’ committee takes shape

In coming weeks, Richland County citizens interested in serving on a transportation sales-tax advisory committee need to step forward.

In coming weeks, Richland County citizens interested in serving on a transportation sales-tax advisory committee need to step forward.

While the committee’s specific duties are still taking shape, the 15-member group initially could weigh in on everything from who to hire as the county’s first-ever transportation director to how much money to borrow initially to get started on construction projects, council chairman Kelvin Washington said.

“The advisory group is going to be instrumental in managing and pushing these projects forward,” he said.

On Nov. 6, Richland County voters approved a sales tax to improve roads, bus service, sidewalks, bike lanes and nature trails. Shoppers will start paying the extra tax May 1. It will be collected for 22 years or until it generates $1.07 billion, whichever comes first.

During the campaign, supporters touted formation of the citizens committee as a way to ensure the money is spent responsibly and that decisions are made publicly. Though the group is formally called the Transportation Penny Advisory Committee, many people began referring to it as “the watchdog committee.”

The group will monitor proposed changes to the advertised list of construction projects and could help determine the order of projects. It will make recommendations to Richland County Council, which maintains final authority over any decisions.

Seven members will be selected by Richland County Council, five of them from unincorporated areas.

Three of the committee members will be chosen by Columbia City Council, with one appointment made by the city councils of Irmo, Forest Acres, Blythewood, Arcadia Lakes and Eastover.

Irmo City Council was expected this week to become the first to choose its representative.

The watchdog committee will be active, meeting at least quarterly, based on information released when it was established.

Membership must be in place by Jan. 31 but Washington said he’d like it to gear up sooner.

Here’s contact information:

Richland County: The clerk of council’s office manages the appointment process for public boards and commissions. Those interested are usually required to fill out a form with basic information for County Council’s review, but the people who are serious about wanting to serve usually reach out to council members, too. For the required form, call the clerk’s office at (803) 576-2060. Find council contact information at

Columbia: The contact person in the city clerk’s office is Connie Lucius at (803) 545-4268. A basic application will be available online ( once the call goes out for applicants, usually about a month ahead of the appointment, council clerk Erika Moore said. Again, it’s not unusual for people who want a seat to lobby council members.

Forest Acres: City council does not have a formal application process for boards and commissions, assistant administrator Jake Broom said. Usually, council members brainstorm and approach people they think might be willing to serve. However, anyone interested in the seat may notify administrator Mark Williams by mail or drop by City Hall, 5205 N. Trenholm Road.

Blythewood: Those interested may email the mayor or administrator through the town’s website, The next council meeting is Dec. 17, so the appointment potentially could be made then, administrator John Perry said

Arcadia Lakes: Like some others, the Arcadia Lakes council does not have an application process but anyone interested may contact town clerk Christine Murphy at (803) 782-2272. The next council meeting is Dec. 6, and Murphy said the council expects to discuss the appointment then.

Eastover: The mayor said town council is establishing a formal process for appointing people to boards and committees but, for now, anyone interested in serving on the Transportation Penny Advisory Committee may contact town clerk Melissa Cowan at (803) 353-2281. Upcoming meetings are Dec. 3 and Jan. 7.

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