Richland County will take over the Transportation Penny Program, managed for five years by a private program development team, on Nov. 4. County leaders say the move will save money and improve oversight.
In a news release from the county, Richland County Transportation Director Michael Niermeier said the money saved by bringing the program’s management into county control will help lower the cost of projects. Management costs will be reduced with professional services fees currently factored into each project disappearing, he said.
In 2012, Richland County voters approved a 1% sales tax to finance the program, which includes various transportation-related improvement projects countywide. The program’s history has been tumultuous, with allegations by the S.C. Revenue Department of improper spending.
In March 2018, Richland County froze spending on the disputed projects as well as spending on two public relations firms and a mentor program.
Four Richland County inspectors will now perform inspection and compliance work for Penny Tax programs, according to the release. Construction and design work will still be contracted, though the county will now manage those contracts.
The county has hired three new project managers/engineers to oversee projects and contracts and has an opening for another engineer, according to the release. Four road inspectors were hired to be “the eyes and ears of the program,” bringing the county transportation department staff to a total of 14 employees.
Niermeier said the county is wrapping up contracts related to services provided by the program development team. He said the transportation department does not anticipate the change in management will influence the amount of projects or those that are currently under construction.