Roads Top To-Do List

BLYTHEWOOD – With Blythewood now seating its full complement of members on Town Council after the re-election last month of Eddie Baughman and Mayor J. Michael Ross and the election of freshmen Larry Griffin and Malcolm Gordge, at least one local resident is ready for Council to talk about S.I.N.

Ken Baldwin, 89, originated the idea for S.I.N. – Street Improvements Now – because, he said, he is sick and tired of pot-hole laden McNulty Road and other local streets, often full of water during rainy weather and a bumpy ride when dry. He pointed out that Blythewood has its fine new park and Doko Manor on the east side of town and the promising landscaped I-77 interchange at Blythewood Road on the west that are significant achievements, but in between are streets badly in need of improvement.

“Some buildings do not have sidewalk access,” Baldwin said after a recent Council meeting. He said this was particularly important for the elderly and for out-of-town visitors staying overnight.

Baldwin, a former member of the town’s Architectural Review Board, said it was important to develop a plan early in the administration of the new Council so that citizens will know they have hope.

“We have been neglected too long,” he said.

Ross told The Voice this week that S.I.N. was indeed at the top of Council’s priority list for the coming year and that he planned to assign Gordge the task of spearheading that challenge. Before his election to Council last month, Gordge had been Blythewood’s representative on the Richland County Penny Tax Committee, Ross said. With street improvement part of the Penny Tax plan, Ross said he hopes Gordge’s experience on the committee will help Council’s position when jockeying for funding.

And funding is the main obstacle, Ross said.

“I think he (Gordge) will run with it,” Ross said. “But how you run with that in a municipality that doesn’t have the money that other towns have is another question.”

The suggestion that his idea might be dismissed on the premise that funds aren’t available or difficult to find is not the answer at this point, Baldwin said.

“What we need now is a commitment to fix the problem and a plan that will accomplish it,” he said.

Even, Baldwin added, if that means levying some form of local tax.

“That (a tax) is certainly a possibility,” Baldwin said, “but I think most folks understand that not all public improvements are free. I am confident that members of Council are always going to do their best to keep taxes at the bare minimum.”

Baldwin pointed out that landscaping the I-77 intersection was made possible by a federal grant. Money is often available from other governmental entities for public improvement projects, he said.

Ross also said it may be possible to utilize hospitality tax dollars to help mend some of Blythewood’s roads.

“I think we can use the hospitality tax, since the roads are keeping people from coming here,” Ross said. “It’s a tourism issue.”

Ross said that with Doko Manor and the park now somewhat under control, roads will be the primary issue for the new administration in the coming year. Patching McNulty beyond just the band-aid quick fixes that have been administered in the past – fixes that last for only a month or two before traffic once again exposes their Third World condition – and straightening Blythewood Road are at the top of the list, he said.

Ross said Blythewood had three of the top 12 penny tax projects on Richland County’s list – widening Blythewood Road, extending Creech Road and the repair and streetscaping of McNulty Road.

And, Ross said that according to the S.C. Department of Transportation (DOT), by the middle of December Rimer Pond Road will be opened back up to traffic, alleviating congestion downtown in the early mornings and afternoons.

“Once you open Rimer Pond Road up again,” Ross said, “20 to 30 percent of those cars downtown will disappear.”


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