Thursday, September 26, 2013
Dorchester County Councilman Jay Byars met with 15 constituents at the Hardee’s on Dorchester Road Wednesday morning to discuss transportation, parks and policy updates.
The councilman provided information on the varying phases of progress of the Dorchester Road, Bacon’s Bridge Road and S.C. 165 construction projects, all of which are within his constituency, District 7.
The Dorchester Road project has been delayed multiple times – “the rain, paver base and utilities were all issues,” said Councilman Byars – but is now moving forward. The construction originally had a completion date of Nov. 30, 2013; with the setbacks, he said the project is now estimated to be complete in early 2014.
Conversely, the construction on Bacon’s Bridge Road has been more successful.
“Cooks Crossing is moving along fast,” he said.
The construction, which should be completed by the end of October according to an August email from the councilman, will add a traffic signal and turning lanes to the intersection.
The larger Bacon’s Bridge Road construction, which will widen the road to five lanes, is a 3-year project set to be complete in 2016.
Construction of S.C. 165 will begin next year according to the councilman, who said the project is in the final design component stage now. It is expected to last 18 months.
Addressing progress on county parks, Councilman Byars – who is the chairman of the county Parks and Recreation committee – didn’t offer any new information regarding the Pine Trace park. He repeated that the county is working with a developer that is interested in buying 50 acres of the 300-acre property.
He did say, however, that the developer will be paying around what the county paid for the property, bringing them to a “net zero, which is not a bad return on your investment.”
Councilman Byars said the sale is necessary in order to have money to develop the park with.
“We’re moving in the right direction toward putting out something the community can use,” he said.
He also said the Ashley River park is moving forward, after receiving positive feedback from the public during the Parks and Recreation committee’s walk-throughs of the property earlier this year. The plans are in the final design stage, he said.
The councilman also addressed a proposed change in policy that will appear as a referendum on the ballot this November: Local Option Property Tax Relief.
“Let me just make it very clear up front that it is not my intention to raise your taxes,” he said.
He explained that if passed, the referendum will add a small tax to retail sales within Dorchester County that will be used as credits on property tax bills for homes, businesses, boats and cars.
“Who pays 100 percent of your property taxes right now? You do,” he said. “This is the only mechanism we have to export some of that burden to people who don’t live here but use our services.”
The referendum was on the ballot once before, in the 1990s, and did not pass. It’s a loss Councilman Byars said can be seen across the county; it has remained what he called a “bedroom community” while other counties with the tax relief program have prospered, becoming places that people work, shop and dine, in addition to owning homes.
“We need to make sure the way we do things here is smarter, he said.
“I want to make sure we’re doing right by y’all.”