Williamston Councilman addresses street repair issues

By Stan Welch
Williamston Town Councilman Rockey Burgess, who maintains an active presence on social media, recently took to that platform to inform residents of the poor condition of the town’s infrastructure.
In light of the extended closing of Minor Street, the focus was almost totally on the town’s surface streets. Burgess presented several photos of rapidly deteriorating situations; each defined by the fact that they are the site of galvanized culverts which are now collapsing. Those culverts were installed by the county several decades ago.
Burgess also offered several points about the history of the town’s streets, beginning with his claim that the town has never built a road, nor officially taken possession of one other than Brock Lane, which was constructed, ironically, as the result of a washout of the Gatewood entrance.
Burgess went on to point out that the town has never specifically budgeted for road repairs or resurfacing, using general funds instead. He also referred to the decision by the General Assembly, around the turn of the century, to ‘gift’ the state’s municipalities with all roads within their corporate limits that aren’t specifically designated state roads, such as Highway 20. That ‘gift’ shifted the responsibility for maintenance and repair to the towns, in the form of an unfunded mandate.
Burgess then addressed the current method of disbursing road funds, generated by the state’s gasoline tax, through the C funds committee, or the Anderson County Transportation Committee (ACTC). That committee meets on a quarterly basis and evaluates and reviews request for funding from the various municipalities. Burgess stressed that all recent requests from Williamston have focused on repairs of washouts. He points out that no paving of town streets has taken place in several years.
He then made two rather startling announcements. The first was that a second washout is forming on Minor Street, at the bottom of the hill just beyond the town maintenance shed. That could lead to an extended closure. The second announcement was that the town council has discussed earmarking two hundred thousand dollars from general fund reserves to begin some of the repairs.
Burgess expressed his opinion that those funds would be totally inadequate; an argument supported by the projected cost of the planned Minor Street repairs. That amount is projected at $350,000. He states that he and the Council hope instead to use those funds to leverage funding from the ACTC, which often requires a twenty per cent match for funds it awards. On that basis, if successful, well over a million dollars could be leveraged.
There are impediments to that result, however. First, the ACTC pie is only so big. Second, they are not the Williamston Transportation Committee. Belton and Pelzer and Anderson and Pendleton and Starr and Iva and West Pelzer all have needs as well, and the committee is obligated to accommodate them to some extent. In addition, the ACTC is required to contribute a certain amount to state roads, and county roads. The financial pie is more accurately described as diced, rather than sliced.