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Council awaiting information from S-WRTA

Posted: October 5, 2017 5:19 p.m.
Updated: October 6, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Council will not consider spending more money on public bus service until it receives information it has repeatedly requested.

That’s the message council wishes to make clear to Santee-Wateree Regional Transit Authority.

During the fiscal year 2018 budget process, council had reduced the amount it had previously provided to S-WRTA from $19,000 to $1,000. This was due to a number of factors, including funding for critical service needs such as fire and EMS services. However, another issue appears to be simply information, or rather, lack thereof.

This has continued, even as S-WRTA has requested that council restore its previous funding levels.

The authority currently operates public transportation in the Midlands, including in Kershaw County. A bus runs every day from the West Wateree to Columbia, and a number of county citizens do use the service. In fact, several people spoke about the need for the service during council’s Sept. 12 meeting.

During council’s Sept. 26 council meeting, Councilman Jimmy Jones made a motion to re-instate the full amount of funding to S-WRTA, noting that it is an important service to many county citizens.

“I think RTA did a great job in telling us what it means for this county,” he said. “The money is in the budget, it won’t need a tax increase.”

Al Bozard seconded the motion.

“I didn’t realize how many people -- including several of my neighbors -- ride that bus,” he said. “If there are people out there that need it then we need to do it.”

However, other council members, including Chairman Julian Burns, are hesitant to restore such an expenditure without certain key elements of information. Burns noted that the authority has a budget of more than three quarters of a million dollars, but can’t or won’t disclose how much it spends in Kershaw County.

“I can’t understand why they can’t tell me how much they are spending, how many riders they have, and why they can’t service a major portion of the county, which is also the most underserved part of the county.”

Councilman Ben Connell agreed.

“We need to know what the cost per citizen is -- how many are riding, and how much we are subsidizing,” he said.  “I can’t in good conscience spend tax dollars without that knowing that. Also, it makes sense to heed market demand.”

Council ultimately decided to have County Administrator Vic Carpenter identify sources where he could move funds within the budget to be able to fund S-WRTA’s request, however, they agreed also to table the discussion so as to give the county time to request the information from S-WRTA once again.

“In fairness to everyone, I would like us to try to get the information one more time,” Bozard said. “We need to know and the people need to know.”

Council will continue the discussion during its Oct. 10 meeting.

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