A bus drives over one of many potholes found on Mink Point Boulevard on Thursday afternoon. The city of Beaufort is considering taking ownership of 147 miles of roads owned by the state within the city limits to try and make maintenance and renovation projects easier and more efficient.(Photo: Delayna Earley The Beaufort Gazette)
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Beaufort wants to take control of most of the state-owned streets in the city to make upkeep and redevelopment projects quicker and easier.
The question, though, is whether the city can afford the 148 miles of pavement? If not, city officials say they don't want to do it.
The state's Roadway Credit Program allows cities to take over streets, city public works director Isiah Smalls said.
The city wants to split the cost of street stormwater drainage systems with the state. It also wants the state to assess any problems that need attention -- trees in the right of way, for example.
Mayor Billy Keyserling said the street-ownership program is worth considering, but he is concerned about the reliability of state funding.
"How do you take from them more of what they don't have?" Councilman Mike Sutton added, during a City Council meeting Tuesday.
Wendell Mulligan, resident maintenance engineer for the S.C. Transportation of Department, said a street takeover could lead to better maintenance. DOT has 535 miles of roads throughout Beaufort County to take care of, and the agency's annual budget was cut $300,000 to $1.6 million this year.
Mulligan said he needs twice that to maintain just the state roads in the county.
Mulligan doubts, though, that any state funding the city would receive would be used more efficiently.
The city expects to spend nearly $304,000 next year on road maintenance, according to Smalls.
City officials noted one efficiency: A shorter wait for permits to alter streets as part of planned neighborhood redevelopment. That would speed along projects such as Bladen Street redevelopment, city manager Scott Dadson said.
Mink Point resident Alan Dechovitz, who is also a member of the city Redevelopment Commission, said the residents there favor a city takeover of streets because they believe it would speed repairs. Potholes are causing costly damage to vehicles, he said.
Smalls told Dechovitz the state follows a two-year paving cycle, and it could be another year before the street could be repaved.
Dadson said neighborhood organizations would receive copies of the city's letter to the state proposing street takeover.
A number of roads within Beaufort County have been transferred to municipalities, according to Mulligan. Port Royal, for example, owns many of its downtown streets.
Ribaut Road next target for Beaufort street improvements, June 24, 2012
Bladen Street in Beaufort closing for beautification, Feb. 28, 2012