Thursday, April 18, 2013
Two years after Dorchester County Council expanded membership on the Sales Tax Transportation Authority by a 4-3 vote, council is locked in a dispute over expanding membership on the County Transportation Committee.
The committee is broken, said Councilman Larry Hargett, who is pushing to expand membership to nine people from the current seven.
“It has never worked properly in the last 10 years,” he said.
But adding members will dilute the representation of some areas, probably the upper part of the county, said Councilman Willie Davis.
The County Transportation Committee, or CTC, oversees the use of $1.4 million in state “C” funds, collected from the gas tax, for roads. The Sales Tax Transportation Authority oversees the road projects approved by referendum that are financed with the 1 percent sales tax.
The spark for increasing membership on the CTC came when Councilwoman Carroll Duncan replaced a member with her own appointee.
Duncan took her seat on council in January, taking over longtime Councilman Richard Rosebrock’s place, and as part of getting established she reviewed all of Rosebrock’s holdover appointees.
She made no apologies for replacing Rosebrock’s CTC appointee. It had nothing to do with personality, she said at a council meeting April 1.
Rosebrock’s appointee didn’t live in District 5, and she believes each district should have a voice in how the road money is spent, she said.
She appointed someone who lives in the district.
Hargett said the unappointed member was a civil engineer, and the committee needs that type of expertise. Plus, he said, the committee’s workload has increased.
He also told council the membership should be expanded because current members haven’t been consistent about showing up and Chairman Les Dempsey has had a hard time ensuring a quorum to make decisions.
Some haven’t even attended half the meetings, Hargett said.
In fact, the quorum problem was initially cited as the reason for needing more members.
If people aren’t coming to meetings, they should be replaced, Duncan said. And adding two members would also increase the number of members needed for a quorum, leaving the committee in the same quandary as today, she said.
Chairman Bill Hearn agreed that council members should first address their appointees’ attendance, and it might be something council needs to look at across all boards and commissions, he said.
But adding members to the sales tax authority strengthened that body, not weakened it, Hargett said.
There is no requirement for a particular type of professional background to sit on the CTC, and that’s not something council has discussed so far, Hargett said.
Hargett’s ordinance squeaked past first reading on a 4-3 vote, with Duncan, Davis and Councilman David Chinnis voting against.
At this week’s meeting, council voted 6-1 to table the ordinance in hopes of developing consensus before moving forward. Hargett voted against tabling.