The major overhaul of Manning Avenue and North Main Street is progressing though preliminary stages, Planning Director George McGregor told Sumter City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday. McGregor said aerial and environmental surveys have taken place to establish baseline conditions and that preliminary designs of the road cross-section have been drafted.
The project, funded with $11 million in federal funds and $5 million in local funding, will include roadway redesign, new sidewalks, medians, intersection improvements, landscaping and possibly street lighting.
McGregor said there will be a public input meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, at Central Carolina Technical College Health Sciences Building, 200 N. Main St.
"We will gather inputs and comments and show potential draft cross sections," he said.
Planners don't foresee the need to purchase any right of way and will instead stay within the current 50-foot space available, he said. One thing he said there will not be space for is a center turn lane.
The Manning Avenue bridge is a different project being managed by South Carolina Department of Transportation.
He said a timetable for the bridge may be available in 2018.
Mayor Joe McElveen added that SCDOT Secretary Cindy Hall is aware that part of the money for the bridge project must be spent by a certain time, and she assured the mayor she would take that into consideration.
City continues work to locate blighted property owners
Council also received a briefing on the city's blighted property program from Quality Assurance Manager John McCloskie.
He said the city has demolished 262 structures during a three-year period - including 70 this year.
An additional 26 structure demolitions are under contract, he said, and four more are out to bid.
Council discussed the difficulty of getting in touch with out-of-town property owners who do not maintain their lots.
McCloskie said the city has acquired a program to make locating people easier and that it has helped get more property owners in compliance with codes.
"If we can make a phone call and talk to the person we have better luck," he said.
Some people will simply not cooperate, he said.
McElveen said he wants people to know the city will enforce the codes.
"We have put people in jail for not maintaining their property," he said.
General Counsel Eric Shytle said if the goal is to get the weeds cut, sometimes the only way to get a property cleaned up is for the city to do it. However, he said, recouping any money spent is difficult.
"Statutorily, we are at the bottom of the list to recoup our expenditures," he said.
Sumter home to professional basketball team
In other action, council passed the final reading of an ordinance to rezone property at 3085 McCrays Mill Road.
During the public comment period, council heard from Junko Allen.
"Do you know we have a professional basketball team in Sumter?" she asked.
She said the Perseverance Panthers are members of the American Basketball Association.
According to material she handed out at the meeting, the goal of the program is not only basketball development, but also character development.
Panther player Kemi Odom said the team usually plays home games at the Sumter YMCA on Saturdays.
Other teams in the region are in Charleston, Columbia, Greenville and Florence, he said.
A team schedule was not available at the meeting.