Council nixes improvements to private roads

Conway, SC - By Brandon Herring - bio | email

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County Council voted Tuesday night to eliminate emergency road maintenance on private roads in the county.

The decision is disappointing to some people like Paul Emmitt, who hoped to take advantage of the assistance. Emmitt lives on Usher Road in the Wampee community of Horry County. The road is private and currently must be maintained by the people who live there.

"In the middle of the winter, there were pot holes a foot and a half deep and six feet wide," Emmitt said about the road.

Since 1998, Horry County has stepped in to provide significant one-time improvements on private roads where the residents don't have the means to maintain the roads. The assistance was created to ensure residents were not stranded at home during emergencies.

Roads that qualified for the assistance have been made passable to emergency vehicles such as fire trucks and ambulances.

Emmitt said the condition of Usher Road has gotten bad enough that it would qualify for county aid.

"An emergency vehicle couldn't have gotten back in here during the winter," he said.

Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said more and more people on private roads have applied for the assistance in recent years. Since 2004, the county has received 85 requests for emergency road maintenance.

In the last year, approximately $45,000 has been used by the county for private road improvements, said Steve Gosnell, director of infrastructure and regulation for the county.

Some council members believe the aid is now being abused by people who could handle road maintenance themselves. There are also concerns that the county can no longer afford to pay for improvements on private roads. Funding for private road improvements has not been separated in the county budget, so work on private roads has come at the cost of public road maintenance.

"There's just not a funding source designated for it, as well as taxpayer dollars going for private property," Bourcier explained. "So there are some issues with that."

People who live on Usher Road have previously applied for help, but were turned down because one property owner would not allow a right-of-entry for the work to be done. Emmitt said he hoped they would be able to apply again.

"It's just a continuing thing, and I don't have the money to put into the road," Emmitt said. "[If we got the one-time assistance] then we might be able to maintain the road so it wouldn't get so bad."

Council members at the Tuesday night meeting said they may consider offering emergency road maintenance for private roads again, but there would be stricter guidelines for who has a severe need for the improvements.

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