By Paul Gable
Social media has been alive with comments about the possibility of some dirt roads currently maintained by Horry County being removed from the county road maintenance system.
This stir among citizens began after Horry County Council voted to pass third reading of an ordinance last week establishing procedure to remove roads from the system not considered of “material benefit to the general public.”
The problem is not the apparent end result the ordinance seeks to accomplish. The problem rests with the procedure established to reach this end.
Along the way to final passage of the ordinance, Horry County Council was removed from the decision making process.
Initially, the procedure to remove roads read: “The Director of Public Works and the County Engineer will evaluate all roads, unless previously formally dedicated, within the county maintenance system to determine if these guidelines are met. Any road that does not meet the standards below shall be forwarded first to the Council member in whose district the road is located for input into the Director’s and County Engineer’s determination, then forwarded to county council for removal from the county maintenance system.”
By final reading of the ordinance, the language had changed to the following: “The Director of Public Works and the County Engineer will evaluate all roads, unless previously formally dedicated, within the county maintenance system to determine if these guidelines are met. Any road that does not meet the standards below shall be removed from the county maintenance system upon authority hereby given to the administrator.”
The guidelines referred to above are as follows:
- Maintenance of road must be of material benefit to the general public.
- Road must exist within existing prescriptive and/or written easements granted to Horry County. This easement ust be wide enough to be of benefit to the public and suitable for maintenance.
- Road must connect directly to another existing public right-of-way.
- The attainment and maintenance of basic design standards must be economically feasible in line with the benefit to the general public.
- Road must be open for public use at all times, except for permitted temporary closures for maintenance, controlled burning, enhancements, etc.
- Road must serve at least four (4) property owners. Any parcel with multiple owners will be counted as having a single owner.
- Road must serve at least four (4) parcels of land that do not also have frontage on a different publicly maintained roadway.
- Road is a through road but a close alternative route exists and there is no other public benefit to maintaining the existing road. Taking the alternative route would not make a substantial change to a desired route.
According to sources familiar with the overall plan, hundreds of dirt roads currently maintained by the county could be subject to removal from the county road maintenance system by the stroke of the pens of three county staff members.
These are roads that were previously accepted into the county system by vote of county council. Any procedure to remove roads from the system should follow the same procedure that accepted the roads into the system.
In other words, county council should be required to vote to remove roads from the system. Council members are elected to represent their constituents, who are the people that will be directly affected by these decisions.
There are reasons these roads were accepted into the road maintenance system. Those reasons and what public benefit the roads serve are best understood by the county council member in each district, not by some county staff members who are disinterested third parties.
This ordinance should be reconsidered at the next council meeting with county council members being put back in the decision making process and final vote by council required to remove roads from the system.