Lexington County Council approves creation of capital penny tax commission
Lexington County Council members took the first of several votes Tuesday afternoon to again begin the process to put a penny sales tax on the ballot.
Much like the Penny for Progress in 2014, Tuesday’s council vote set up the capital project sales tax commission. Its members will review project proposals from Lexington County municipalities and form the ballot question with a list of projects.
Chairman Johnny Jeffcoat said council members did not discuss the timeline for appointing people to the commission, but he estimated it to be within 60 days. County Council and municipalities in Lexington County will appoint people to the six-person commission, and Jeffcoat said it is unlikely the same people from the Penny for Progress commission will be nominated because of the amount of time it requires of them.
Council did not unanimously approve forming a committee. Councilmen Ned Tolar and Bobby Keisler voted in opposition.
“Sometimes it’s easier for government to raise taxes to accomplish agenda items. A lot of times, that’s not the best way to do things,” Tolar said. “I believe we need to look at other ways to solve (the roads) problem.”
Jeffcoat said the goal is to put the question back to the people and reiterated his earlier statement that council members strongly preferred only transportation projects this time.
“We’re giving taxpayers an opportunity … to get roads fixed,” he said. “We’re asking just for roads.”
In other business:
Public Works Director Wrenn Barett said most roads damaged by recent flooding are now passable, but 32 roads in the county are still closed. He said the preliminary cost estimate to repair the roads and drainage is $6 million to $7 million, and it likely will take workers six months to a year to finish.
County employees, with help from consulting firm Amec Foster Wheeler, are making headway on assessing homes that were damaged. Barrett said 300 homes were originally on the list, but it’s since grown to about 600. Sixty homes are being assessed daily by seven teams with 214 complete so far.
Officials are using FEMA’s Significant Damage Estimator to determine if homes in the floodplain were damaged 50 percent or more.
“The cutoff for requiring residents to bring their house up to current code, which often means they have to raise their house up out of the floodplain … is if they have 50 percent damage,” said Angela Vandelay of Amec Foster Wheeler.
Only 25 of the 214 were damaged 50 percent or more.
If a home incurs 50 percent damage in a five-year period, the damage is cumulative and they must rebuild to current standards.
Barrett said permits are being issued now for those who need to start construction before the county completes assessment of all the homes.
Questions about FEMA assistance can be posed to representatives stationed at the Cayce-West Columbia, Lexington Main and Irmo libraries.