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Work on Richland penny tax project stopped because contractor didn’t get paid

bmarchant@thestate.com

Work on one of Richland County’s penny tax projects has been stopped for weeks because the contractor was not being paid.

County Councilwoman Yvonne McBride chided the county transportation department over the delay at a council meeting on Tuesday. She said work to complete two sidewalks in the Pinehurst neighborhood had ceased because workers for Armstrong Contractors had not received payments from the county.

“For four weeks, there has not been any work done on these streets, and I don’t know what other streets might be experiencing the same thing,” McBride said.

The work stoppage is affecting sidewalks along five blocks of Magnolia Street between Two Notch Road and Pinehurst Road, and two blocks of School House Road between Two Notch and Ervin Street near Pinehurst Park.

In the neighborhood today, freshly poured sidewalks run to roped-off ditches in front of modest homes where the work stopped. Richland County voters approved $1.3 million for the twin projects in the 2012 penny tax referendum, part of a $1 billion package of roads projects across the county.

Council Chairman Paul Livingston said work on the sidewalks simply exceeded the amount of money the county had budgeted for the sidewalks for the year.

“As the year goes on, you don’t know which (projects) will be fast or slow,” Livingston told The State, and the county had to adjust it’s budgeting in order to pay the contractors more money, moving up money allocated in next year’s budget for the same project.

Calls by The State to Armstrong Contractors went unreturned.

“It’s a problem several (projects) have run into, and they’re all supposed to get paid,” Livingston said.

County Transportation Director Michael Niermeier said his department had to await approval for moving any money

“It was bit of an arduous process, with the guidance that we were given, (to ensure) the invoices matched to make the transfers to make the payments,” Niermeier told council members, at the same time the department was drawing up its next two-year budget for council’s approval.

“With ... the resources that went into developing the budget, it just took a little longer than we’d hoped,” he said. “We’re trying to prevent that in the future, because it’s not a great place to be.”

Niermeier said he expected to “cut the check” for the contractor this week, but it was unclear when work on the sidewalks will be completed.

McBride said she hoped that in the future, the county would be able to pay its contractors properly.

“We need a mechanism in place to ensure that does not happen again,” she said.

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Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.
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