More than a quarter of North Charleston’s residents live in Dorchester County, but some feel they are being overlooked when it comes to road repairs.
“It can be very confusing,” said Wescott resident Kathy Daniels. “Most people just assume North Charleston is in Charleston County, but we aren’t. Our kids go to Dorchester County schools and we pay taxes to Dorchester County.”
Now, local and state officials are hoping to work together to make sure the area gets the attention it needs, especially when it comes to doling out the roughly $2 million the county gets each year from the gas tax.
Buoyed by rapid growth in the southeast part of the county around Coosaw Creek and Wescott Plantation, the number of North Charleston residents living in Dorchester is reaching 30,000, officials said. That means about one in five Dorchester County residents lives in North Charleston.
But some feel they live in somewhat of a no man’s land, especially when it comes to fixing crumbling roads.
“Many residents’ impression is that they’re paying the tax and not getting anything in return,” said North Charleston City Councilman Ron Brinson. “We are having trouble keeping up with potholes.”
Twice as many cars travel roads like Patriot and Wescott boulevards on a daily basis as did a decade ago, officials said.
“We’ve seen these roads become cut-through arterials for folks coming down Dorchester Road wanting to get back to Palmetto Commerce Parkway and I-26 as quickly as possible,” Brinson said.
The county transportation commission, which is responsible for spending the money, has 17 projects for repaving or patching lined up this year. Only one, Park Forest Parkway, is listed as being in North Charleston — and only a portion of it is within city limits.
“They’ve got a big job to do,” Brinson said of the commission. “They have a lot of needs and there’s never enough money, but we have to represent our folks, too.”
Brinson and fellow North Charleston Councilman Kenny Skipper have talked with commission members: Dorchester Councilmen Larry Hargett and George Bailey; Rep. Chris Murphy, R-Dorchester; and Sen. Sean Bennett, R-Summerville. The group hopes to find a way to work together.
“Our approach has to be more regional as a whole because the whole area continues to expand,” Skipper said. “If we don’t react regionally we’re going to be in trouble. Our goal is to try to come up with a better spirit of cooperation, really.”
Dorchester County includes Ridgeville, St. George, Harleyville and Reevesville. A small portion of Lincolnville is in Dorchester, with the rest in Charleston County. Summerville and North Charleston both reach into Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties.
Dorchester’s CTC was created by ordinance in August 1998. Its members are appointed by a majority vote of council, with one from each council district. But none live in North Charleston.
“If we can do something to help them and make sure everybody has a seat at the table, I’m all for it,” Murphy said.
“Generally North Charleston is a partner and is very important and valuable to us,” said Hargett, who represents the area on Dorchester County Council. “Of course we’re very interested in making sure they’re served, but not to detriment to the rest of the county.”
The program is funded by the gas tax. Each time someone pumps fuel into their tank, 2.66 cents of every gallon goes to the county transportation commissions statewide for fixing their roads. The committees can use the money on whatever road projects they choose as long as it’s not a private road.
Other local counties don’t seem to have problems choosing projects, officials said.
But thinking there’s no consistency with the committees across the state, Gov. Henry McMaster earlier this year called for an audit to get a better understanding of how gas tax money is being allocated and spent.
“I understand North Charleston’s concerns,” Murphy said. “It’s growing by leaps and bounds. But does North Charleston contribute 20 percent of the overall amount collected? Nobody knows that number, but I hope to find out.”
About five years ago, Dorchester and North Charleston collaborated on a repaving, with each paying half of the nearly $97,000 price tag to resurface Enterprise Drive, Indigo Fields Boulevard, Governors Walk, Park Forest Parkway, LaChappelle Bend, Wild Indigo Bluff, King Indigo Court, Indigo Commons Way, Club Course Drive, Netherby Lane and part of Patriot Boulevard.
The city would be willing to collaborate again, Skipper said.