GEORGETOWN COUNTY — Terry Reed, Dedric Bonds and Tranis Parker are all residents of Spring Gully, a unincorporated community just outside Georgetown city limits. At Tuesday night's Georgetown County Council meeting, the three men spoke emotionally during public comment about the flooding, drainage and road issues in their community.
Their stories were not all that different from one another — they said homes are flooding with any amount of rain, floor boards are needing replaced from water damage and roads are not being tended to properly.
Even though later in the meeting, council voted unanimously for a surplus tax that specifically gave $300,000 to infrastructural improvements in Spring Gully, the men's sentiments remained consistent: While they are grateful for the funding, $300,000 is not enough to fix all the community's issues.
"The question the community has is why? Why the loyalty still to the library when you have this community that has so many needs to be addressed?" Reed said.
A Capital Project Surplus Tax from 2014 left the county with an extra $12.5 million, and as part of a plan to distribute that, each county councilmember got $1 million to spend on capital projects in their district. Spring Gully resides in District 4, and its councilperson Lillie Johnson originally allocated her entire $1 million for library improvements, until nearly a dozen residents like Bonds strongly opposed the plan at a Feb. 23 council meeting — forcing the vote back a month and demanding funding go towards infrastructure issues in Spring Gully.
Bonds, one of many residents who spoke Feb. 23, showed several pairs of his family's worn and muddy boots. The wear on the boots was not from everyday leisure, or because he and his family are avid fisherman or particular fans of water.
“These boots represent what it takes to navigate the swamp that becomes my yard after any degree of rain,” Bonds said, citing the continued drainage and flooding issues residents say they have been dealing with for years.
After two meetings between Johnson and her constituents this month, Johnson proposed $300,000 of her allocated $1 million go towards Spring Gully specifically, with the rest of the $700,000 going towards library improvements.
After feeling ignored for so long already, Reed, one of the leaders of the Spring Gully Community Action Group, said this news was disappointing.
“Even after hearing the needs of her district … we thought that she would decide to give that whole million to her district, to the needs of her people. And she decided to not even give us half of it,” Reed said.
In total, $869,425 of the surplus will now go towards the library, with another library improvement allocation outside Johnson's already in place in the original surplus tax allocation.
All three men gave appreciation to Johnson and council for the $300,000, but all agreed it would not be sufficient funding on its own in the long run.
"(Johnson's) change of heart was promising, it was good, it showed us that we are moving in the right direction to get our needs addressed in our community, so we do appreciate that," Reed said. "But we need more than $300,000 out of a million."
Parker told council during his public comment that until more money was given to Spring Gully, he would be at every county council meeting, making sure they know that the community will not rest until their needs are met.
"I want to introduce myself as the newest council member, there's eight of us now, because until I get what's needed in my community ... God willing, I am going to be at every single meeting," Parker said. "You guys are going to hear my voice until you're sick and tired of it."