John Thompson has been named the new transportation director in Richland County. He started the new position Jan. 8.
Thompson will direct the penny tax program and the contractor hired to oversee the $1.07 billion infrastructure improvement initiative.
“Most of the issues revealed regarding the transportation program could have been avoided with strong management oversight,” said county administrator Gerald Seals. “We needed someone who had the equivalency of a government manager to run this department considering the budgetary, contractual and administrative issues the director has to address on a daily basis. It was vitally important that we get someone with the right skills to manage all aspects of the program.”
In November, Thompson presented an internal audit to Richland County Council showing the challenges in correcting the transportation program.
“One of the absolute necessary functions of the department is to have a drawdown schedule,” Seals said, referring to an estimate of payments to a contractor over a period of time during a project. “Dr. Thompson understood and was able to produce this information very shortly after his arrival.”
Thompson has headed governmental agencies in Fulton County and the District of Columbia and has experience turning around governmental agencies with financial and operational issues.
Passed in 2012, the penny tax referendum provides funding for projects throughout the county during a 22-year period, or until $1.07 billion in sales tax revenue is collected. The program is divided into three categories: roadways; the COMET bus system; and bicycle/pedestrian/greenways. It also includes such projects as road widenings, intersection improvements, sidewalks, bikeways and dirt road paving.
Its projects are reportedly an estimated $132 million over their original estimates, leaving a gap of about $96 million in funding. In November, Richland County Council voted to issue bonds to help pay for the projects.
The state grand jury has also investigated the penny tax program after a dispute between the county and the Department of Revenue over a 2015 audit.
“We’re excited to have Thompson join Richland County,” Seals said. “His insight, organizational, supervisory, research, writing and analytical skills, as well as his ability to understand technical issues, are already proving to be an asset.”