The South Carolina Department of Transportation didn’t show up to a Conway City Council meeting Monday. And the council members were not happy about it.
SCDOT was on the agenda to give council an update on a maintenance project to renovate the U.S. 501 Business Bridge over the Waccamaw River. Last week, it was reported by the Sun News’ Grand Strand alliance partner, WPDE, that the bridge would be closed longer than expected, potentially until Memorial Day Weekend in May.
Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy said she’d previously spoken with a representative from SCDOT who said that more structural issues were seen than expected. She said she assumed the reps were a no-show Monday because they needed more time to be able to answer the council’s questions.
An attempt to reach the SCDOT via email on Monday was unsuccessful.
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Overall, the communication between SCDOT and the City of Conway has been infrequent. On Wednesday, following the report of a delay, Conway spokesperson Taylor Newell said they were expecting an update Monday.
Still, when the transportation department didn’t show, council members took the time to encourage the public to speak out about how SCDOT has treated Conway.
Councilman William Goldfinch said SCDOT is appointed by the governor’s office, but state representatives still have a lot of influence. Conway does not own the bridge, so it has little sway over the timeline.
“It’s not our bridge, it’s not our road but it is our community,” Goldfinch said.
He said he asked SCDOT if there was any chance this project could take longer, and he was assured it was just routine maintenance.
Following up on Goldfinch’s comments, Councilman Thomas Anderson said SCDOT has routinely disrespected Conway and it’s time for the people to speak out. He pointed out that SCDOT did not manage to close the bridge on its own timeline.
“I thought it was an insult,” Anderson said. “They don’t believe in us, they don’t care about us.”
Councilwoman Jean Medlen Timbes said it is not good for the community to be left in the dark on something so important to the entire City of Conway. Councilman Ashley Smith said SCDOT isn’t doing its job, so he wore a “Conway Matters” shirt to the meeting. The other council members agreed that the public should voice their concerns about the lack of information.
Blain-Bellamy said she hopes SCDOT will have an update at a March council meeting.