BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Leaders in Berkeley, Orangeburg and Aiken Counties say the state isn't holding up its end of the bargain to cover costs of the winter storm that hit the Palmetto State in February, 2014.
Lawmakers tried to get a combined $10 million from the state during the budget debate earlier this month but failed. Berkeley County Supervisor Bill Peagler said he was surprised they should have to request the funding at all.
"Since Carroll Campbell was governor and Hurricane Hugo, typically the state has had a policy or practice of taking up the difference," Peagler said.
That money would cover the cost of contractors who cleaned up fallen tree branches and the costs of cleanup that has not yet begun.
The state reduced the amount of money it gives to county governments back in 2008. Since then, only a fraction of what counties used to get from the local government fund to cover disaster relief, infrastructure, and other projects has actually trickled down from Columbia
Federal emergency grants only cover about three quarters of the total amount to clean up storm damage or make repairs necessary because of falling tree limbs.
"Limbs were popping, trees were breaking in half. It sounded like a war," Peagler said.
A handful of representatives tried to get some state funding to cover lingering cleanup costs from the winter storms a few weeks back, but Berkeley County Rep. Bill Crosby said the House had their own mess to deal with.
"The Ways and Means people run the budget. They didn't want anything else added to the disaster we already head. So they shut it down," Crosby said.
Without state help, that final 25 percent that needs to be paid, about $17 million, has to be paid by the counties hardest hit.
"That's $2 million we don't have in the county to pay salaries and do other things with. If the state government picked up their share of disasters in the past, it's only fair that they do so now," Crosby said.
Besides cleanup, there is also a safety issue with damaged trees. Peagler says there are still a lot of dead branches hanging in trees that could cause serious injury, or death if they fall and hit someone.
Lawmakers said some representatives from the Upstate have come out in favor of providing storm repair money to the counties. If the Senate does bring the proposal back to life, it has a chance to pass in the House.