By Paul Gable
Horry County Council took the coward’s way out from making potentially controversial decisions when it passed third reading of a county road maintenance ordinance Tuesday night.
In passing the ordinance, council shifted the decision making process to county staff on which roads currently maintained by the county should be removed from further maintenance with county tax dollars.
The excuse is the county is maintaining some roads that are actually driveways or serve no public benefit.
There’s no question taxpayer dollars should not be spent on private driveways or other roads that do not publically benefit county taxpayers.
But what exactly is a public benefit?
In the past, county council allowed private gates to restrict access to public roads in the Myrtle Trace sub-division. Those roads were paved and maintained by the county but restricted to use by sub-division residents only.
When that issue was exposed in the media, Horry County Attorney John Weaver attempted to justify that it was perfectly legal to restrict access on public roads.
Ultimately, Myrtle Trace residents agreed to remove the roads from the county system and maintain them privately. But, that decision only came after the roads were repaved with county tax dollars one more time.
Council member Al Allen was correct in his criticism of county council being taken out of the decision to remove roads from county maintenance.
It takes a majority vote of county council to accept roads into the county road maintenance system. Why should it take a decision of only a few members of staff to remove roads from that same system?
Allen said the idea behind county staff making the determination of which roads to remove from the county road maintenance system was to take the politics out of the decision.
Actually it’s a way for county council members to dodge having to make potentially controversial votes. Using the dodge, ‘It was a staff decision. It’s out of my hands,’ is a coward’s way out for an elected official.
This is doubly true when it will still take a vote of council to accept roads into the system.
Only a little over a year ago, a majority of county council had no problem voting to raise the county’s road maintenance fee (tax) by 60 percent.
Now, a majority of council wants to remove itself from deciding where those tax dollars should be spent because they don’t want to be involved in controversial decisions. That sounds like taxation without representation to me.
In order to maintain it’s integrity with voters, county council should reconsider the ordinance at its next meeting and, at least, pass the amendment that Allen offered to require a majority vote of council to approve staff decisions on which currently maintained roads are to be removed from the county road maintenance system.