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The City of Orangeburg is seeking the best funding sources to permanently fix the Pine Top subdivision’s drainage, which has caused problems with potholes and crumbling sidewalks.

Repairs are estimated to cost at least $1 million.

City officials claim the homeowners or the homeowner’s association assumed responsibility for the subdivision’s drainage system upon the completion of the development back in the 1990s.

“The HOA or the homeowners, they expect and have expectations that the builder and developer have done everything to specifications,” Orangeburg Assistant City Administrator John Singh said. “They may have maintenance, but they are not going to have maintenance like we are talking about here.”

Pine Top is located off Livingston Terrace and includes the streets Chelsea Close, Livingston Terrace NW, Way Drive, Allington Close, Avian Court and Teaticket Court.

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City officials claim the drainage was not properly installed and that the roads are substandard with little asphalt subbase.

“The residents there have suffered a lot,” Singh said.

In order to fix the underlying drainage system, Singh said the city will have to work with the subdivision’s homeowners association on how to address the drainage issues as well as the damage to the dam and dam road in the community.

Singh said funding sources will have to be examined.

One possibility is the creation of a special purpose tax district that would tax residents of the subdivision to help fund the repairs.

Councilman Bernard Haire asked if the special purpose tax district has been explored with the homeowners.

“We have touched on it with the HOA,” Singh said. “We have not gotten into the details. There are a lot of ways to do that.”

Singh said the question is how much of an additional tax it would place on homeowners

He estimates there are about 40 homes in the subdivision, though there are empty lots for further development.

“If the HOA does not help with the drainage, then we will be in trouble trying to find money,” Councilman Dr. Kalu Kalu said.

Singh said the city would also look at the South Carolina Department of Transportation for funding help.

“What we have to do is to cobble together the best means to do that,” he said.

Kalu asked about grant opportunities.

The city typically tries to get Community Development Block Grants through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but those grants are for low- to moderate-income areas. Singh said the Pine Top subdivision does not qualify for the grants.

As to the roads in the subdivision, the city is responsible for fixing those, Singh said.

Unlike most of the roads in the city, which are owned by the state, the city took over the roads in the subdivision shortly after it was developed, he said. The only exception is the road over the dam, which is the responsibility of the subdivision’s homeowner’s association.

“Over time, that road fails,” Singh said. “If we came in and completely fixed the roads, the drainage is still going to come in and undermine all the work we do, which means it will be a vicious cycle of replacing roads.”

“You are not talking about a $50,000 problem,” Singh continued, referring to the roads. “You are talking about probably, if it was just doing fixes, half a million to a million dollars.”

In order to make sure tax dollars are used most efficiently, the city has identified 28 locations where it can patch or stabilize the asphalt and maintain the areas. This project has been put out to bid.

“The residents won’t have pot holes,” Singh said. “They will have fixed proper areas.”

Singh said about $600,000 has been allocated in capital project sales tax money for Pine Top roads, but said the money is not enough to do any sort of complete paving.

In light of the Pine Top subdivision challenges, Singh said the city has since created a development ordinance to prevent a similar problem from occurring in other subdivisions within the city.

“I am glad of any kind of service that you can give them down there,” Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler said. “They have gone through it with those roads and those big potholes.”

Residents’ thoughts

Chelsea Close Drive resident Michael Raysor has lived in the Pine Top subdivision for the past two years.

“I really don’t have a problem with the road issue,” Raysor said.

He noted that when he turns off of Livingston Court onto Chelsea Close, there is a “pretty good size pothole.”

“There is a drain issue, especially when we get a pretty good rain,” he continued. “The ponds kind of overflow and everything comes straight down this way.”

Raysor says he wants to learn more about the extent of the possible tax increase.

“That is the main thing,” he said.

Raysor thinks it’s worth fixing the system.

Tea Ticket Place resident Dr. Lamar Cato has lived in the Pine Top subdivision with his wife since 1997.

“My concern is the roadway, potholes, the erosion of the road, the sinkholes, the manholes down there,” Cato said.

Some of the manholes in the neighborhood are currently blocked off with safety barriers that were put in at the request of the Catos. They were concerned about the safety of the neighborhood’s children.

A sinkhole formed a couple of weeks ago and the city patched the hole, Cato said. A hole is already forming.

“You patch and you patch,” Cato said. “You can do a half a patch and you can do a real patch.”

Cato said there is water that drains and it is unknown where it comes from.

“On one person’s property, the driveway is always wet,” he said. “Is there a spring up under that? Somebody should know where that water’s coming from.”

Cato said he would have to know more details about the special purpose tax district before commenting.

“Taxed at what rate?” Cato said, noting there are too many questions.

Cato says more money needs to be allocated toward fixing the situation once and for all.

“City Council: they need to sit down and decide how they are going to come up with the money to repair this road,” Cato said.

Promises have been made to fix the road in the past, he said.

“They need to sit down with the homeowners and city council so we can discuss this. The question needs to be asked,” he said.

“What do you want the homeowners pitch in? Do you want penny for penny?” Cato said.

Cato also questioned the rationale of patching the street if the drainage is not fixed. He wants the problem to be fixed permanently.

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