Published on October 2nd, 2019 | by Millennium Magazine Staff0
Richland County to Release Documents from Transportation Contractor
(Richland PIO) – Richland County will provide the public with free online access to more than a million pages of documents related to the management of the taxpayer funded program to improve transportation infrastructure.
The transportation program documents will start being posted on the County’s website in the coming weeks. Prior to posting the documents online, the County must review the records to avoid disclosing any personal identifying or other legally protected information pursuant to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or other applicable state law. The latest collection of reviewed documents will be posted periodically. The public will be notified when the documents are posted online.
“We understand and appreciate the media’s and public’s interest in reviewing these documents, but it is important that we act responsibly in releasing the information,” Council Chair Paul Livingston said. “These documents related to the transportation program will help tell the story of this transformative effort in Richland County, and we hope residents will access and use them as they become available.”
In response to County Council’s request, the transportation contractor turned over more than 1.5 million pages of documents. The sheer volume of records presents a reviewing, redaction and release challenge that, like the transportation program itself, is unprecedented for the County.
However, rather than wait until the entire document collection is reviewed by staff, the County will perform an ongoing rollout of the public records as each set is ready. Periodically, the latest set of reviewed documents will be posted under the Transportation Program link on the County’s website.
“Due to the voluminous amount of data that must be reviewed to ensure that no protected, proprietary, or otherwise confidential information is inadvertently released, it will take some time,” said County Administrator Leonardo Brown.
Posting the documents online for public viewing is the best means to provide immediate response to FOIA, media inquiries and other requests for these records.
Further, while state law allows a public body to charge fees associated with responding to records requests, the fees to respond to requests for millions of pages of documents would run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Richland County has no desire to impose cost-prohibitive fees on anyone who wants to view and use these transportation program documents.
In August, Council directed the private contractor managing the transportation program to provide documents for staff review. Council’s request was an outgrowth of its desire to have the supporting information, or foundational documentation, that served as the basis for the recent financial audit of the transportation program.
Council’s concerns come at a crucial juncture for the transportation program as Richland County prepares to transition management of the initiative from a private contractor to County staff.
Changing the transportation program’s management structure, a moved approved by Council earlier this year, is expected to save taxpayers millions of dollars and improve oversight.
The Richland County Transportation Program, approved by voters in November 2012, is designed to fund projects throughout the County during a 22-year period or until approximately $1 billion in sales tax revenue is collected.
The program, funded by a countywide 1 percent sales tax, is divided into three major categories – roadways ($656,020,644), The Comet ($300,991,000) and bicycle/pedestrian/greenways ($80,888,356) – and includes such projects as road widenings, intersection improvements, sidewalks, bikeways and dirt road paving.