There’s no easy way to sugarcoat the problems coming out of the woodwork at the Aiken Municipal Building, and when you ask officials and City Council, they don’t want to.
On Monday, Council member Dick Dewar called the City’s road issues “a mess, and has been a mess for some time.”
After decades of doing little to nothing, and a legacy of not raising taxes for more than two decades, Council is faced with some difficult and unpopular decisions – like raising taxes.
It is a sobering moment when City Manager John Klimm said he couldn’t believe the City didn’t have a roads program, then followed by saying that presently there is not an available funding source. He also added he wasn’t completely sure about the depth and scope of the state of disrepair of the City’s crumbling infrastructure.
City residents have enjoyed something of a free ride for a long time, and while residents understandably say they don’t like raising taxes, Aiken’s deteriorating roads and infrastructure have festered and rotted for far too long.
Before implementing the vehicle fee, the City needs to prioritize how this money is going to be spent. There are plans to develop an online list of roads for residents to review, but something needs to be presented to those about to be taxed now.
The City says they will be 100 percent transparent regarding its roads program and the $20 vehicle fee. It would be a good idea to give residents a list of planned roads repairs ahead of time so they can make an informed decision. Getting input from citizens via email or meetings should be part of the process, too.
In addition to the City’s roads problems, there are other squeaky wheels screaming for attention.
It seems every time the City opens a door or looks beneath a rug, a serious problem presents itself. It’s not just roads, it’s stormwater and sanitary sewer issues, leaving developers seeking to build along Whiskey Road waiting for the City to install sewer pipes in order to accommodate them.
Hitchcock Woods could soon be called Hitchcock Canyon if the drainage problems there aren’t soon resolved. Every time it rains, millions of gallons of water are dumped into Hitchcock Woods, officials say.
These problems didn’t start with the arrival of Klimm or Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon. Instead, they were either unknown or ignored by previous City administration and council members.
Pointing the finger at one person will not solve the problem.
It’s time to make sure the City’s infrastructure and road needs are addressed in a timely fashion.
It’s called management, and sometimes management costs money.
And if residents will be expected to pay more in taxes, City officials must ensure residents are aware of where those dollars are going.
The roads and infrastructure needs aren’t 20 to 30 years down the road, they’re here.