Griffin: Road repairs a problem for city of Florence

February 23, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – There are no good answers to road repairs in the city, according to Florence City Manager Drew Griffin.

Griffin was speaking at the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast and was asked by Chamber President Michael Miller to address the issue of road repairs.

The weather over the past four years has created several potholes in need of repair, Griffin said.

“You can’t fix a pothole when it’s raining every other day,” he said.

The city, he said, does not receive any transportation funds from any state or local resource.

“Your local resource for street is the Florence County Transportation Committee,” Griffin said. “That is chaired by Sherwin Welch, and that committee, which is appointed by the legislative delegation, makes all decisions about road repair within the context of our entire community.”

He said the city submits a list of roads that need resurfacing to the committee. The committee uses the list of roads as part of its decision-making process. Griffin also said the city sends a staff member to the committee to advocate and answer questions.

The General Assembly, Griffin said, did raise the gas tax, which results in more money coming to the committee for repairs.

Griffin said the city was not able to implement a tax on fuel. He said Florence County had already implemented a property tax for vehicles in the county. Within the city council, the implementation of a second fee for city residents has been discussed.

“There may be a day of reckoning where the city has to raise funds in a significant and substantial way to fix the streets,” Griffin said. “The DOT [Department of Transportation] about 1984 quit accepting streets into their system. So since 1984, unless that street was built by the DOT, every street built since 1984 has become a city-owned street.”

Griffin cited Celebration Boulevard as an example.

The city estimates that it would need to raise $2 million to $3 million per year to provide a base level of road maintenance on the city-owned streets.

“At some point in time, that’s going to happen,” Griffin said. “That day is coming. That day is coming. You fix a street, you’ve got about a 20-year life, so what you’ve got to do is put enough money in the pot to replace and fix every street within the context of 15 to 20 years. That is a significant amount of money, and there is no good mechanism right now to do that.”

“You don’t want to raise taxes to fix a street,” Griffin said. “It doesn’t have a nexus to who is using the road. The only fair way to do that is an excise tax, like a gas tax, that goes into a reserve fund that goes directly to maintaining streets and roads within the state, the county, the city.”

Griffin said the city is also limited by the lack of availability of asphalt for paving projects. There is one plant that produces asphalt in Florence, and that plant relies on contracts from the state to determine when it is open. Without the plant being open, the city cannot obtain asphalt for paving and must resort to an inferior substitute.

“We can’t go fix it, because we don’t have the resource necessary to fix that pothole,” Griffin said.