Charleston Co. council hopes to keep I-526 expansion money

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County leaders may find out this week if they have to pay back $11.6 million to the State Infrastructure Bank. The bank says the county broke its contract by voting to kill completion of the Mark Clark Expressway.

The council has a big meeting with the Infrastructure Bank on Thursday. Charleston County Councilman Dickie Schweers is one of the handful of people traveling to Columbia Thursday to meet with the State Infrastructure Bank. He says council members are going prepared with a plan.

"We'll have them consider whether we can make alternative improvements to existing roads in the 526 area," Schweers said. "The ball is in their court which is why we need to discuss it with them about using the money for other projects."

State Infrastructure Bank board member and state representative Chip Limehouse says it won't be that easy.

"I expect the State Infrastructure Bank will want the money back," Limehouse said.

He did say it doesn't hurt to try to convince the other six board members otherwise. He said he believes the county will have to pay back the $11.6 million and it will have to be paid back in the next two to three months.

Not only is the council facing possibly owing a huge chunk of change, they also seem to be divided on the issue.

Vice chairman Elliott Summey said that he and chairman Teddie Pryor were asked to back off on the proposal. Schweers says Summey and Pryor showed opposition to the proposal.

"Even after the vote they continued to express opposition," Schweers said. "Perhaps they're not the ones to articulate what the prevailing side wants."

Schweers says just because all of the council doesn't completely agree doesn't mean it will affect Thursday's meeting.

"At the end of the day it's just politics," he said.

Summey says he wasn't even asked any input on the proposal. The meeting will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Schweers says he is optimistic about the proposal and the other road projects they want will solve the same traffic problems that the completion of I-526 would.

There is no guarantee that the State Infrastructure Bank will make a decision that day, but Limehouse says it's more than likely they will.

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