The “Roads Bill” – we vote next week! Your thoughts?

February 9, 2017

House Ways and Means Committee Passes Roads Bill
Includes Long-term Funding and Governance Reform

(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement after the Ways and Means Committee amended and adopted H. 3516 . The bill will be added to the House legislative calendar next week for debate in the coming weeks.

“South Carolina has the most dangerous roads in the country. Businesses and job creators continue to stress the importance of infrastructure repair as a necessity to further economic investments. For the past several years the General Assembly has allotted a significant portion of the general fund surplus to roads, but pressing needs for education, social services, and retirement deficits will require those monies this year. Our citizens have demanded that those who use our roads must be the ones to pay for repair, not just the South Carolina taxpayer. The House also understands that every dollar raised for infrastructure repair should be used solely for the intended purpose of fixing our roads and bridges, which is why additional funding will be placed in an Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund.

“A gradual increase to the state’s motor fuel user fee is the most responsible option to generate a long-term, sustainable funding stream for road repair. I will not support using general fund revenue for road appropriation again. House Majority Leader Gary Simrill and Ways and Means Chairman Brian White have worked extensively on this infrastructure plan and I commend them for their efforts. As the House roads bill moves to the floor for debate, I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure its passage as fixing our roads is my number one priority.”

Provisions Included in the House Road Funding Bill:

• Creates an Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund
• Increases motor fuel user fee 10 cents/gallon over a 5 year period
• Biennial motor vehicle registration fee increase of $16
• Increases auto sales cap to $500 for South Carolina drives
• Capitalizes on out-of-state registered vehicles
• Creates biennial registration fees for all hybrid and electric vehicles
• Creates a motor carrier road user fee for out-to-state truckers
• Reforms governance of the SCDOT Highway Commission

(HERE IS ADDITIONAL INFORMATION – FROM ME – REGARDING THE SUPPORT AND OPPOSITION TO THE BILL, AS WELL AS ADDITIONAL DATA)

State of SC Department of Transportation 2017

Tax Foundation: State Gasoline Tax Rates

The State: The House’s roads bill would cost $60 a year for a driver who travels 15,000 miles a year in a vehicle that gets 25 miles per gallon

The State: Gas-tax hike a ‘last resort’ – Governor McMaster

SUPPORTS:
South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads
SC Chamber of Commerce

OPPOSES:
Americans for Prosperity

Update from the State House – February 16

Finding a permanent funding stream to repair and upgrade South Carolina’s road system is the top priority of the legislature (as it has been for the last several years). But it’s not the only thing being debated in Columbia. Here’s a brief recap to keep you in the loop!


Gas Tax Hike a “Last Resort”

Gov. Henry McMaster met privately with House Republican legislators and told us he views any hike in the gas tax as a “last resort”. McMaster’s opinion is important because if he were to veto legislation raising the gas tax, it would take a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override the veto. Some viewed his remarks as not ruling out a gas tax hike, but merely labeling it a “last resort”. In a letter to President Donald Trump, Gov. McMaster requested that the President include two South Carolina projects in his national infrastructure plan. Emphasizing SC’s unique position as an economic driver in the region, the governor requested an appropriation of $5 billion from the plan to address state-specific infrastructure needs. Additionally, he asked for a $180 million allotment to fulfill the federal share for the deepening of the Charleston port to 52 feet.


Gas Tax / Roads Bill heads to House Floor

A bill raising SC’s gas tax and some other fees to put an additional $600 million a year in the state’s roads is on its way to the House floor. The proposal (H.3516) was unanimously approved by the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill would boost the state’s 16.75-cents-per-gallon gas tax 10-cents over five years and increase the sales tax cap on vehicle purchases from $300 to $500. Other fees are also included. It also would create a $250 one-time fee registration fee for people moving into the state. The bill creates the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund to ensure 100% of revenues go directly (and only) toward fixing our roads and bridges and will not be used for new roads. If this legislation makes it through the House, it will face an uncertain fate in the Senate. You may recall last year, the Senate killed our “Roads Plan”.

Painful Pension Solutions

State government, as well as counties, cities and school districts around the state will likely have to pay more into the state retirement system over the next six years, under a bipartisan proposal recommended by a joint House-Senate study committee. The Joint Committee on Pension Systems Review unanimously recommended the state and its employees should contribute more to the beleaguered pension system, which faces a $20+ billion gap between what it has on hand and what is promised to future retirees. The recommendations will now be introduced in the House and Senate as separate bills. Obviously, we have many state employees in our area and I will be closely watching the bills as they move to the floor for full debate.

Concealed Weapon Permit Expansion

A House sub-committee advanced legislation (H.3240) that would allow concealed weapons permit (CWP) holders in all other states to also carry in SC. Our state currently recognizes concealed weapons permits from 23 other states that have similar requirements to get a permit.

Real ID Legislation Starts Moving

A House committee unanimously approved legislation (H.3358) that would bring SC in compliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. If our state doesn’t comply with the federal requirements, SC’s driver’s licenses and ID cards won’t be accepted to board airplanes or enter federal installations and military bases. SC has had a waiver for more than a decade, but that will likely run out unless legislation is approved. Stay tuned.

Enhanced Government Transparency

Legislation that would significantly enhance the cost and ease to use the SC Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cleared a final committee vote and heads to the House floor for a vote. This bill (H.3352) enhances those laws and makes compliance easier and cheaper for both government entities and those seeking government documents alike. The pro-transparency measure would streamline the current process used by citizens and the news media seeking access to government documents. After all, government at all levels belongs to you and the FOIA process is intended to ensure the business of the public remains public.


Business License Reform

Current state law allows counties and cities to levy business licensing fees if they operate within those jurisdictions. They collect more than $300 million annually. For years the business community has sought reforms to this structure to reduce the burdens placed on them. This pro-business reform legislation (H.3650) that would allow for a central online registry for business licenses across the state cleared a key House committee and heads to the House floor for a full vote. This is another highly contested bill and Rep Huggins and I have heard from every Irmo Town Council Member as well as the Mayors of both Irmo and Chapin as to the impact locally. Hopefully some sort of “fix” can be found that helps businesses while not impacting our local governments tremendously.


Vet’s Tuition Bill

For the past three legislative sessions the House has passed bills that waive the one-year waiting period for a veteran to attend a SC public college or university so they can pay in-state tuition rates and avoid the costly out-of-state tuition. Each time the bill has died in the Senate. The House is persistent. This week, for a fourth time we passed the bill (H.3035) on a vote of 109-4 and sent it to the Senate.


Clean Energy

A bill aimed at attracting investment to SC’s clean energy industry passed the Senate. The Senate voted 38-4 to green light the Renewable Energy Economic Development Bill (S.44) and send it to the House. The bill would allow land that’s currently unused or being used for agriculture to be used as a solar farm, creating tax revenue to counties. If bill becomes law, SC would be on similar footing with neighboring North Carolina and 28 other states that have enacted similar legislation.

These are just some of the topics in Columbia this week. I encourage you to stay informed by visiting my website www.nathansnews.com and letting me know your thoughts or questions about topics important to you and your family!

If I can ever be of service, please let me know.

Church offers “Run for God” Program

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter , you probably see my posts about F3 and our boot camps and run groups . (Apologies for taking up your feed with those; but I really feel exercise has made a difference in me. Sure, I’m still not in great shape; but I’m in BETTER SHAPE than I would be if I didn’t exercise). Here’s information I saw in The New Irmo News about a program my church has sponsored for some time now. I hope someone reading will see that if I can do it, you can too!

3 years ago I NEVER ran. Decided one day to get out there and ran/walked 3.1 miles. Stayed with it….ran over 20 5Ks since then….and 2 months ago I ran my first half marathon (didn’t stop, beat my time goal,too)! YOU can do it!

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Riverland Hills Baptist Church is offering a 12-week “learn to run” program for the community. “Run for God” combines a weekly Bible study with group training sessions to prepare participants to run a 5k (3.1-mile), an 10k (6.2-mile) or a half marathon (13.1-mile) road race. A 5k walking program is also available. Individuals who complete the program will run or walk in a local road race on May 13 or 20.

The program meets three times a week at the church, located at 201 Lake Murray Boulevard, on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 pm, starting February 12. The Bible study illustrates the parallels between endurance running and the endurance required by one’s faith. The program includes group training sessions where participants run and walk with the support of their group.

Run for God is targeted to beginners—absolutely no experience is required. The half marathon program is targeted to individuals who can already run a distance of seven miles. Adults and children 7th grade and older (with a parent) are invited to participate. The $50 program fee includes two race shirts and entry into the Empower Run 5k and 10k road race held in Irmo on May 13. The $70 fee for the half marathon program includes two race shirts and entry into the Governor’s Cup Half Marathon in downtown Columbia on May 20. The deadline to register for the program is February 5.

“Since we first started this program in 2011, we’ve introduced more than 600 people to the sport of running,” says Run for God coordinator Jeanna Moffett. “This recreation ministry can improve both the spiritual and physical aspect of people’s lives and can make a tremendous difference in their overall health and well-being.”

For more information, contact Barbara Kirby at Riverland Hills Baptist Church at 803-772-3227 or Jeanna Moffett at 803-407-4445. Register online at RiverlandHills.org.

Update from the State House – January 20

For more than a year, I’ve heard from so many of you about the importance of fixing our roads and bridges and we made the initial step in that process this week. As you know, last year the House overwhelmingly passed a plan to provide sustainable funding for our roads. That plan stalled in the Senate due to a filibuster. A long-term solution must be found this year.

The most sobering reality in our state today is that people are dying on our roadways and we can prevent much of it. Our state is once again on the wrong end of a national 50-state listing. We lead the nation in traffic fatalities, a sad fact attributed in part to the dilapidated state of our road systems. South Carolina has seen an increase in traffic fatalities of 27% in just the past 3 years alone.

After much input, a new infrastructure bill (H. 3516) was put into motion this week that would take an incremental approach to an increased user fee. Motorists who drive on our roads would see a 2 cents/gallon increase each year over the next 5 years. It is important to note that 100% of the additional funding would go solely toward our vast infrastructure needs. The last time South Carolina increased the per gallon user fee was in 1987 under the leadership of Governor Carroll Campbell. It remains one of the lowest in the country. Since the last increase the cost to pave roads has multiplied without a new source of funding.

The oldest taxpayer watchdog group in South Carolina, The South Carolina Taxpayers Association (SCTA), announced its support for the House measure. SCTA President Don Weaver said, “Well naturally, our membership doesn’t like any tax increase if that were perfect, but we also realize that the roads do need an increase in funding, and so unfortunately the gas tax really is the best way to get that.”

By utilizing a user fee increase (sustained long-term funding paid by anyone buying fuel to drive on SC roads), instead of General Fund money (one-time monies, most of which is collected only from SC citizens via sales/income tax), the new bill would shift the burden from being solely on the backs of SC taxpayers to anyone who uses our roadways – 1/3 of whom are out of state individuals. It’s called a “user fee,” not to try and hide the fact that it’s an increase of revenues, but to highlight the fact it’s a tax only paid by people who buy fuel to drive on our state’s roads. Those who drive tens of thousands of miles on our roads will pay more because they use them more, and those who drive much less, would pay much less under this plan. The measure is an effort to create a fair user fee for motorists who cause wear and tear on our roads.

In a creative effort to even further shift the burden from SC citizens to out-of-state funding sources, the new legislation places a transfer fee on any out-of-state individuals seeking to register a vehicle for use on our roadways. The concept being those who use our roads should pay to do so. Currently Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee all have similar measures.

While this proposal makes its way through the legislative process, there will be many opportunities for discussion and debate. I’m asking for your input on the matter. I will also update you as additional details become available in the coming weeks.

As always, thank you for your comments (eitherbelow or thru the website , to NathanBallentine@schouse.gov, or on my my Public Servant Facebook page .

On Point with WACH FOX: Out with the old, in with the new


Always good to join constituent, Cynthia Hardy, and discuss what’s going on in Columbia. On this episode, I was joined by colleagues Representative Kirkman Finlay (R-Richland) and Representative Beth Bernstein (D-Richland)

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) – On this week’s edition of OnPoint on WACH Fox the state is about to deal with a case of out with the old, in with the new.

Governor Nikki Haley is poised to be confirmed as the next ambassador to the United Nations. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expects Haley to be confirmed to the post in the near future. If that happens, and most people believe it will, Lt. Governor Henry McMaster will become South Carolina’s next governor.

So how will he work with lawmakers in the General Assembly? The 2017 legislative session is underway with a plate full of recurring issues. There still isn’t a permanent funding fix for the state’s crumbling roads and bridges. Poverty, education, and healthcare are also issues that have plagued the state for years.

South Carolina never expanded Medicaid and with Obamacare on the chopping block, what happens to healthcare for the poor?

We invite a panel of state lawmakers to the WACH Fox Studios to talk about the plans to make those issues a priority.

To watch click here.

Update from the State House – January 13


This week was the first week back in session for the General Assembly. We returned to Columbia with a long list of issues to tackle and a shorter period of time in which to accomplish the work of the people. A shorter legislative session (ends May 11th) means savings for taxpayers and forces more efficiency in government. I am thankful for the trust you have placed in me to represent your interests again in Columbia.

Most work this week was done at the committee level as bills begin the vetting process. Soon, legislation will find its way to the floor for full debate. Representative Huggins and I will keep you updated each week by sharing our thoughts on a rotating basis.

As a newly appointed Whip for the House Republican Caucus, I wanted to share our Business Plan for 2017 which focuses on job retention and growth for our citizens. Each item contained in our business plan directly affects an existing job or a future job. It’s a smaller agenda than we have had in previous years because these are all serious items that will need serious debate.

· Education Reform: Legislation is being written to correct our state’s education system which does not currently afford every child the same equally proficient education. We will fix the law so every child in South Carolina receives a 21st Century education no matter what zip code they live in. By doing so, we ensure each child is prepared for life in the workforce.

· Retirement Solvency: It’s no secret our state’s retirement system needs a major course correction, and quickly, as it must continue to meet the needs of our public employees. Our state’s greatest assets are the people who serve the public each and every day; from law enforcement to our teachers. We owe them an adequate retirement, and the promises made to public employees will be kept.

· Fixing our Roads & Bridges: Last year the House was the only legislative body to pass a comprehensive DOT restructuring/sustainable funding bill. While the Senate came up a few votes shy of passing comprehensive legislation, we have heard the demands from constituents and will re-double our efforts this year to once again pass a meaningful DOT reform/funding bill to address our crumbling infrastructure.

· Workforce Development: For a period of months, employers have been telling us there is a shortage of skilled workers to fill job openings. We will engage our k-12 education system to give parents the option for students to receive the specialized training necessary for a career in technology, manufacturing, or another field requiring analytical thinking skills.

· Real Tax Reform: House Speaker Jay Lucas appointed a special committee tasked with updating our existing tax code. The committee is currently designing a proposal that will move us further from an income based tax code while simultaneously moving toward a consumption based tax code. The result is a flatter and fairer tax code for all taxpayers.

These won’t be the only issues addressed this session. There are many more that may be of interest to you. Please let me know your thoughts on the issues above as well as other issues important to you and your family. Hearing from you helps me to better represent your family, our community and state.

I hope you’ll stay informed and visit my website (www.nathansnews.com) often this year. I will write regular posts as well as continue to send my COMMUNITY UPDATE emails each month. If you are not receiving these updates, please email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov and let me know to add you to the list!

Thanks again for the honor and privilege to serve as your representative in Columbia!

Frequest updates from Facebook

With my new committee assignment this year keeping me very busy, you may find less posts here at Nathan’s News. Don’t worry though! You can always keep up with what’s going on in Columbia or around the community by liking and following my Facebook page !

It’s much easier (and quicker) for me to post photos, comments, information LIVE from the House Floor or around the community when I use Facebook. I’ll still post here regularly but there will be much more day-to-day information available to you when you follow my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter .

UPDATE: several road improvements

w20-7a

Hopefully you’ve noticed improvements all around our community in the past several months! You will continue to see more in the months and years ahead!

When we return to session in January, the General Assembly will continue to address our infrastructure needs as this is vital not only to our way of life; but also the future of our state’s economy (aka jobs, jobs, jobs)

Thanks for bringing several of these needs to my attention. Thank you SCDOT for always being willing to listen and perform the studies needed to find solutions and improve safety!

By the way, there are 3 meetings next month that may be of interest to you:

October 4th (5pm-7pm) Seven Oaks Elementary – Carolina Crossroads (aka Malfunction Junction)
October 11th (5pm-7pm) Chapin High School – I 26 Widening Project ranging from est Exit 85 to Exit 101
October 13th (5pm-7pm) Chapin Middle School – same as above

** RECENTLY COMPLETED PROJECTS IN OUR AREA **

Richland County CTC Resurfacing
West Shady Grove Road (S-40-612).

S-40-940: Peace Haven Road
Completed except for permanent pavement markings.

S-40-1403: Three Dog Road
Completed except for permanent pavement markings.

S-40-620: Captain Lowman Road

** ACTIVE PROJECTS **

S-40-621: Trillie Lane
This road is under contract for full-depth reclamation and asphalt surface triple treatment. The completion date is November 30, 2016. RCE is Chris Kelly, can be contacted at 786-0706 regarding this project.

S-40-2265: Silver Point Road
This road is under contract for full-depth reclamation and asphalt surface triple treatment. The completion date is November 30, 2016. RCE is Chris Kelly, can be contacted at 786-0706 regarding this project.

** RICHLAND COUNTY PENNY PROJECT **

Kennerly Road at Coogler Road
This is a Richland County Penny Project being administered by ICA Engineering. Per my discussion with Project Manager Jennifer Bragg, the scope of the project is to install a roundabout at this intersection. It is one of six intersections included in a Design Build contract. The contract was awarded to C. R. Jackson and work started mid-August. The work on this project is expected to be completed in Spring of 2017. For more information, you may contact Project Manager Jennifer Bragg at (803) 726-6146 or Richland County Transportation Director Rob Perry at (803) 576-1526.

Widening Broad River Road
This is a Richland County Penny Project being administered by ICA Engineering. The general scope of this project is widening of Broad River Road from North Royal Tower Road to beyond I-26. The construction work is currently planned to begin in 2020. For more information, you may contact Richland County Transportation Director Rob Perry at (803) 576-1526.

I-26 Interstate Pavement Preservation
Interstate Preservation: I-26 from MP 100.8 to MP 107.7 in Richland and Lexington Counties. This project was in the July 12, 2016 Letting with a November 30, 2018 Contract Completion Date. Anticipated start is Spring 2017. Project is being managed by CEI Consultant – Infrastructure and Consulting Engineers. Point of contact is Jim Cravens, can be contacted at 822-0333 regarding this project.

I-126 Interstate Pavement Preservation
Interstate Preservation: I-126 from MP 0.00 to MP 3.68 in Richland County. This project was in the July 12, 2016 Letting with a November 30, 2018 Contract Completion Date. Anticipated start is Spring 2017. Project is being managed by CEI Consultant – Infrastructure and Consulting Engineers. Point of contact is Jim Cravens, can be contacted at 822-0333 regarding this project.

** 2016 Richland CTC Resurfacing Program **

Treatment: Resurface
Proposed Let Date: June 14, 2016
Completion Date: November 30, 2017
• Firetower Rd. – Kennerly Rd. to Western Ln.
• Scotts Hill Rd. – Hiller Rd. to Dead End.
• Owenswood Ln. – Western Ln. to Dead End.
• South Hampton Dr. – Koon Rd. to Davenport Dr.
• Davenport Dr. – Sutton Way to South Hampton Dr.
• Western Ln. – Broad River Rd. to 0.85 miles North of US 76.
Resident Construction Engineer: Chris Kelly 803 786-0706

** 2017 Federal Aid Preservation Program **
Treatment: Full Depth Patching (6211)
Proposed Let Date: September 13, 2016
Completion Date: TBD
• Chapin Rd. – Newberry Co. Line to Richland Co. Line.
Resident Construction Engineer: Joey McIntyre 803 359-4672

Treatment: PMST / Microsurfacing
Proposed Let Date: March 14, 2017
Completion Date: TBD
• Broad River Rd. – Newberry Co. Line to Broad River Rd.
Resident Construction Engineer: TBD

Treatment: Crack Seal
Proposed Let Date: March 14, 2017
Completion Date: TBD
• Dreher Shoals Rd. (SC 6) – US 76 to Lexington Co. Line.
• Dutch Fork Rd. (US 76) – Lexington Co. Line to 0.25 miles West of Gates Rd.

Resident Construction Engineer: TBD

** 2017 Federal Aid Rehab. Program **
Treatment: Resurface
Proposed Let Date: January 10, 2017
Completion Date: TBD
• N. Woodrow St. – Broad River Rd. to N. Royal Tower Rd.
Resident Construction Engineer: TBD

Treatment: Full Depth Reclamation
Proposed Let Date: TBD
Completion Date: TBD
• Ray Stoudemayer Rd. – Broad River Rd. to Newberry Co. Line
• Freshly Mill Rd. – Broad River Rd. to John Chapman Rd.

Resident Construction Engineer: TBD

** 2017 Non-Federal Aid Rehab. Program **
Treatment: Resurface
Proposed Let Date: September 13, 2016
Completion Date: TBD
• Dan Comalander Rd. – Broad River Rd. to Lexington Co. Line.
• Page Derrick Rd. – Kennerly Rd. to Shady Grove Rd.
• Eleazer Rd. – Shady Grove Rd. to Kennerly Rd.
• Point Dehaven Rd. – Richard Franklin Rd. to Local Rd.
• Rucker Rd. – Johnson Marina Rd. to Local Rd.
• Old Rd. – Richard Franklin Rd. to Old Rd.
• Creekwood Rd. – Old Rd. to Dead End.
• Circle Dr. – Richard Franklin Rd. to Richard Franklin Rd.
• Lazy Cove Ln. – Silver Point Rd. to Dead End.
• Gates Rd. – Dutch Fork Rd. to Wise Rd.

Resident Construction Engineer: Paul Miller 803 786-0717

** 2017 Non-Federal Aid Preservation Program **

Treatment: Full Depth Patching
Proposed Let Date: September 13, 2016
Completion Date: TBD
• Sid Bickley Rd. – Chapin Rd. to Dead End.
• Indian Fork Rd. – Hiller Rd. to Dead End.

Resident Construction Engineer: Joey McIntyre 803 359-4672

Treatment: Chip Seal
Proposed Let Date: June 14, 2016
Completion Date: June 30, 2017
• White Rock Rd. – Mt. Vernon Church Rd. to White Rock Rd.
• White Rock Rd. – White Rock Rd. to White Rock Rd.
• Three Dog Rd. – Old Hilton Rd. to Three Dog Conn.
• Three Dog Conn. – Old Hilton to Stone Hill Rd.
• Brody Rd. – Johnson Marina Rd. to Dead End.
• Amenity Rd. – Johnson Marina Rd. to Dead End.

Resident Construction Engineer: Robert Power 803 796-9540

Treatment: Chip Seal
Proposed Let Date: October 11, 2016
Completion Date: TBD
• Willow Cove Rd. – Old Forge Rd. to Dead End.
Resident Construction Engineer: Robert Power 803 796-9540

** FUTURE PROJECTS **

US-76 @ Johnson Marina Road Intersection Improvement
This is an intersection improvement project that will provide turn lanes on both US-76 and Johnson Marina Road. Traffic Engineering is currently developing plans for the project. They have indicated issues with both right of way and railroad at this location. The project was let September 2016 and has a completion date of September 30, 2017. RCE is Joey McIntyre, can be contacted at 359-4672 regarding this project.

St. Peters Church Road Safety Improvement
Tentative December 2016 Letting. This project involves moving the ditches back, widening the road ~2’ on each side, resurfacing, pavement markings, and guardrail. RCE is Joey McIntyre, can be contacted at 359-4672 regarding this project.

Bypass Lane on US 76 at Hiller Road
SCDOT Maintenance will construct a bypass lane on the railroad side of US 76. Work is expected to be completed by the end of October.

I-26 Widening
FROM EXIT 101 (US 176) HEADING WEST TO BE DETERMINED – RICHLAND, LEXINGTON, AND NEWBERRY COUNTIES.
The project includes widening of I-26 from MM 101 (US 176, Exit 101- Irmo) heading west on I-26 with the western termini to be determined. Project includes widening I-26 from 4 to 6 lanes for approximately 16 miles; overpass bridge replacements at S-58 (Koon Road), S-80 (Shady Grove Road), S-234 (Mt. Vernon Church Road), S-405 (Old Hilton Road), and S-49 (Peak Street); and jacking/rehabilitating overpass bridges at S-39 (Peak Road) and S-167 (Parr Road). Project is scheduled for 2018.

Other notable projects in the Chapin area include:
• Lexington Avenue Enhancement (Landscaping) Project for the Town of Chapin.
• Columbia Avenue Corridor Improvement Project – this proposed project is being administered by Lexington County. A consultant has proposed several alternatives for replacing the bridge over I-26, widening Columbia Avenue, and constructing new connector roads. These alternatives have been narrowed to a preferred plan that is being further developed and will be presented for public review sometime during the Fall or Winter of 2016.

11th Annual Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast

11th prayer breakfast

Seems like yesterday when Representative Huggins and I sat down to plan an event that we hoped would make an impact on the Irmo Community every year.

Next month we will gather at Union United Methodist Church for the 11th Annual Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast!

Doors open and breakfast line begins 7:30am. Program begins at 8am and ends at 9am.

This year’s speaker will be a man who needs no introduction in this area or state: Marcus Lattimore.

We all have followed Marcus’ career and seen him make a huge impact in the lives of our youths. My favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11. It’s obvious God has a plan for Marcus – one that is much bigger than a life on the football field!

Chip and I hope you’ll join us, your friends and neighbors next month at the event we have lovingly dubbed “the kickoff to the Okra Stut” ever year.

To RSVP as an individal or to sponsor the event (and have reserved table for 8), please call or email DesireeWatson@me.com, 803-348-5416. Seating will be limited. RSVP today!

FOR INFORMATION ON PREVIOUS PRAYER BREAKFASTS (videos, locations, speakers), click here .

Purple Martins fill the sky again

BlueMartin_032

BY TIM FLACH
tflach@thestate.com

Purple martins again are flocking to Lake Murray, delighting bird-watchers and shoreline residents for another summer.

Thousands of the birds are returning to their long-time roost on Bomb Island, relieving anxiety lingering when they went elsewhere in 2014 for unknown reasons. They returned last year, but in smaller numbers.

“The birds are back, but the population is much smaller than it was,” said Sidney Gauthreaux, director of the Radar Ornithology Laboratory at Clemson University. “It’s not really as spectacular as years past.”

No one counts, but the roost has been as large as 1 million birds at times, according to unofficial estimates. It’s one of the largest roosts of purple martins in North America.

THE SPECTACLE THAT THE BIRDS CREATE HAS BECOME A SUMMER STAPLE ON THE 650-MILE LAKEFRONT.

Their numbers today are fewer, apparently due to higher mortality when the birds winter in South America and less reproduction, Gauthreaux said.

After their young leave the nest, the birds spend the summer consuming insects on trips that cover hundreds of miles before returning to their large communal roost on the island.

The roost at the lake apparently began to build sometime in the late 1980s, officials say. By 1994, researchers were estimating its numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

The spectacle has become a summer staple on the 650-mile lakefront.

Boaters sail near Bomb Island in July and August to watch the acrobatic cloud that the birds create at dawn and sunset as they depart and come back from hunting food.

It’s a phenomenon promoted by tourism officials. “Everybody is ‘Wow! I had no idea,’” said Miriam Atria, chief executive officer of the Capital City/Lake Murray Regional Tourism Board.

Tour boat operators are busy with nightly trips to view the flights despite suggestions the number of birds is down.

“Our passengers have not been disappointed,” said Ken Colton, operator of the Spirit of Lake Murray. “It is inspirational to see.”

The birds appear to roost more across the island than settling mainly on its east end facing the dam as they did before, he said.

But the cloud “is nothing like the tornado it used to be,” said Richard Peterson, chief executive officer of the Greater Lake Murray Chamber of Commerce.

Briar bushes should be added to the island to give the birds more spots to stay overnight, replacing landscape that has died out naturally, he said.

“We need to create new habitat,” Peterson said. “If we do that, the birds are going to come back in multitudes.”