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: