East Red Bay Road bridge maintenance set to be completed in 2025, penny tax prep continues


The East Red Bay Road bridge over Turkey Creek has been out of commission for a while.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation deemed it unsafe, closed it and issued a detour.

Ken Martin of SCDOT said during the Feb. 16 Sumter Urban Area Transportation Policy Committee meeting that it is set to open in June 2025.

The bridge even made its way onto the March 19 Sumter City Council agenda for the city to reimburse SCDOT for $304,096.64 for the "shared cost of the utility relocation for the Red Bay Road Bridge Replacement Project at Turkey Creek," according to public documents.

"When you hear 'DOT project,' you think DOT is going to fund it and take care of it, but we have a significant portion in this as well, which is our utilities," City of Sumter Mayor David Merchant said during the meeting.

The bridge closure made its way into conversation at the county level as well. According to Chairman Jim McCain, complications with the project stem from the bridge being over wetlands and having a major gas line running through it.

Sumter penny tax preparations continue

Sumter County officials have named six locals to the 2024 Capital Penny Sales Tax Commission.

Documents detail what area each person represents as well as race and gender.

- Herb McClary represents Sumter County and is a Black man.

- David Bagwell represents Sumter County and is a white man.

- Traci Nelson represents Sumter County and is a white woman.

- Earl Wilson represents the City of Sumter and is a Black man.

- Kimberly Rauschenbach represents the City of Sumter and is a white woman.

- Nancy Williams represents the town of Mayesville and is a Black woman.

If the Capital Penny Sales Tax, also called the Penny for Progress initiative, gets a majority approval from voters this November, there will be an added charge of 1% of the sales tax imposed that will fund capital projects, and it will be active for no more than seven years if voters approve it.

This added charge of 1% of the sales tax would apply to most items except non-prepared food items (groceries), prescription drugs and medical supplies.

The Sumter EDGE will be heading up the marketing and advertising campaign for the penny tax initiative.

"That has to be done with the private sector," Sumter County Administrator Gary Mixon said about having a promotional campaign for the penny. "[Government officials] can obviously advocate for the penny, but we cannot spend any public resources on that effort."

The Sumter EDGE is a 501c6 organization under Sumter Economic Development.

"[The Sumter EDGE] will be leading the charge on the education and marketing efforts for the optional Penny Sales Tax for the November 2024 ballot," Erika Williams, communications and strategic initiatives manager for Sumter Economic Development, told The Sumter Item earlier this year. "Plans have yet to be finalized how the EDGE will move forward with this task as they wait for the commission to be formed and the full project list to be developed."

The penny was voted down in 2022 by a small margin, according to earlier reporting from The Item. The penny sales tax was active for 14 years before 50.84%, or 13,909 people, voted against the third Capital Penny Sales Tax.

The first referendum funded 16 projects and ushered in a $75 million boost to the county's economy, and the second funded 28 projects and cost $75.6 million. The projects fell under four categories: public safety, infrastructure and facilities, transportation and quality of life.

The third penny that was voted down in 2022 was projected to rake in $117 million during seven years to fund 34 projects at a total of $107,266,500 in projected revenue; the remaining $10 million was to be used as a "cushion."

If it had been approved, the penny would have paid for projects involving public safety, roads, park improvements, blight removal and more.

Because it was voted down in 2022, the penny stopped showing up on Sumterites' receipts in April 2023. And if it's approved this year, collections will start in May 2025.