S.C. Department of Transportation officials encourage the public to contact the local department about any water drainage or road maintenance issues.

“The first step is please, reach out to us and we will assess the situation,” SCDOT District 7 Engineering Administrator Brian Heape said last week. He spoke at a town hall meeting at the Orangeburg County Library and Conference Center.

People at the meeting filled out index cards with their concerns. A panel of state agency representatives was on-hand to answer questions.

Flooding caused by clogged drainage ditches topped the list of citizen concerns discussed at the meeting.

One individual wrote that the drainage ditch behind their house had not been cleaned out in 30 years. The writer complained that they get the run-around from the state and county about which agency is responsible for cleaning the ditches.

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SCDOT District 7 Assistant District Maintenance Engineer David Brandyburg said SCDOT can only to clean out a ditch if the water is coming from a state-maintained road.

“If the water is not coming from one of our roads, we do not have a responsibility for those ditches,” Brandyburg said. “That is why sometimes it might lead them to the county.”

SCDOT will come out to personally assess a ditch and water flow to determine where the responsibility lies, Brandyburg said.

“If someone comes in and says there is a ditch that is holding water that is not ours, we should go in and communicate with the county,” Brandyburg said.

Brandyburg said sometimes a ditch may be functioning, but weeds need to be cut in the ditch.

“There is a difference between cutting the bushes and cleaning the ditch,” Brandyburg said. He said cleaning a ditch will be necessary if there are obstructions at the bottom of the ditch. Cutting bushes addresses a problem apart from the ditch itself.

The phone number of the local district maintenance office is 803-531-6850.

The town hall meeting was the third and final one coordinated by Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, to discuss community concerns related to flooding, broadband, unsafe roads and litter control. The other two meetings were held in St. George and Santee.

Those in attendance were also able to hear from representatives of state agencies such as the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff, the S.C. Office of Resilience and the S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority.

SC Office of Resilience Mitigation Director Phleisha Lewis said the office has funded flooding studies for Orangeburg County and the City of Orangeburg over the past three years.

Both grants were for areas that are classified as low to moderate income.

Three years ago, the City of Orangeburg received a $300,000 grant to study stormwater drainage issues in the city. It’s focused on areas around Railroad Corner, Magnolia Street, John C. Calhoun Drive and the warehouse district of Broughton Street, near U.S. Highway 21.

Orangeburg County received grant funding two years ago to the tune of $439,150.

Additional funding is being sought for the studies. The same studies were also submitted for potential federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Lewis said.

“We wanted you to be in as many rounds as possible because if you are not on the court, you can’t make a slam dunk,” Lewis said. “We are working very hard to get additional funding here in Orangeburg County.”

Litter can also clog drains.

SCDOT has received state money to contract for litter pickup, Heape said.

Brandyburg said the district is picking up litter along about 96 miles of road a month. He asked for patience with the litter pickup program.

SC Office of Regulatory Staff Broadband Office Senior Director Cedric Keitt said the office continually seeks funding to help address the broadband gap in the state.

He said the Office received about $400 million through the American Rescue Plan Act to focus on areas with the most needs. Keitt also said additional $551 million in federal money will be coming to the state from the National Telecom Information Authority’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.

The Office of Regulatory Staff has come up with a five-year broadband plan that will build out the state’s internet infrastructure.

He said about 1,062 locations have been identified across the state.

One person at the meeting asked about opportunities for minority businesses and how people of color can get contracts for broadband projects.

Keitt said the five-year action plan addresses the inclusion of minority-owned businesses.

“We are working on that,” Keitt said.

Orangeburg County resident Ron Mosely attended the meeting for information-gathering purposes.

“It was interesting,” he said. “I was interested in this interstate and the roads and the broadband. That is where our issues are in the county with the roads.”

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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