Council Backs Off CTC Blame

Denials Conflict with Previous Statements

WINNSBORO – After passing during their June 8 meeting a 2015-2016 budget that included a road maintenance fee of $5 annually for private vehicles and $10 annually for commercial vehicles, County Council Monday night backed away from statements made during their budget work session process that pinned the necessity of the fee on the County Transportation Committee (CTC).

“The CTC did not ask the County to implement a road maintenance fee. And based on that, no one should conclude that the CTC is to blame,” Milton Pope, Interim County Administrator, told Council Monday night during his report.

Pope said there had been “some suggestions that Council had mentioned that it went through its process of approval by the insistence of the CTC, or because they required us to do that.” Quoting from a June 5 article in The Voice (“Road Fee Stays in Budget”), Pope read, “Talk of the fee first surfaced at the May 7 budget work session and came at a suggestion of the County Transportation Committee.”

Instead, Pope said, the CTC asked the County last winter to set aside a fund to provide maintenance for County improved roads.

“I took the information from that particular meeting to our retreat, which was in February,” Pope said, “and it appeared as though there was consensus that that fee should be included in the recommended budget.”

Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) drove the point home during her County Council Time comments near the close of the meeting.

“I want it to be heard that never once did I say that the CTC told us how to put a fee together,” Robinson said. “I did say that the CTC told us that we needed to have something sitting aside, which will equate to like $123,000. . . . Never once did I say that they told us how to do this.”

Monday’s comments back away from statements made during budget work sessions, during which Pope and Robinson make it abundantly clear that were it not for the CTC there would be no road maintenance fee.

At a May 7 work session, when the fee was first discussed in public, Pope said, “When we met with the CTC, they mentioned to us we needed to look at providing maintenance dollars for County improved roads.” And during a May 26 work session, Pope said, “The fee was something that came about primarily after the CTC meeting we had and we were asked to invest and create some kind of fund.”

During a June 1 work session, Robinson placed the blame for the fee squarely at the feet of the CTC and the State Legislature. Road maintenance falling on counties, she said, was another example of “unfunded mandates” passed down from the state. The CTC, she said, is appointed by the local Legislative Delegation and receives its funding through the state’s gasoline tax.

“We’ve been told there was no more money to go back and resurface any of the roads that have already had surfacing on them in seven years,” Robinson said on June 1. “Guess who’s the closets person who’s going to hear the complaints about these resurfaced roads: County Council. And our hands are tied, there’s nothing with which to do those roads.”

Removing all doubt about whom she felt, at least on June 1, was responsible for the necessity of the road maintenance fee, Robinson said, “Ultimately this is a state mandate to us through the CTC Director.”