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INDIAN LAND – When Mary Smith of Indian Land drove to Fort Mill last week, she was disturbed to see how tall the grass had gotten on local roadsides.
"This is not only unsightly. It's dangerous," she said of the knee-high and taller grass that skirts local roads and medians.
Typically, local state roads are mowed by the S.C. Department of Transportation five times between April and December, but budget cuts have forced them to reduce that to four, said John McKay of the Lancaster DOT maintenance office.
Crews are working on the third mowing of the year in the lower part of the county and will be in Indian Land within three weeks. A final mowing will be done at the end of the growing season.
Smith drives a larger sport utility vehicle, but she noticed that drivers of smaller sedans were having trouble seeing the road from stop signs and median cut-throughs and were nosing into the right-of-way to get a view.
"This is ridiculous," she said. "Someone is going to have an accident."
Local resident and District 45 House Rep. Mick Mulvaney also noticed the issue and began receiving calls from constituents about the problem.
He participates in the Adopt-A-Highway program to reduce litter along state roads, and he and the Indian Land Rotary Club, which also has adopted a stretch of U.S. 521, have been unable to conduct trash pick-ups due to the high grass, he said.
Mulvaney's concern about safety along his area of road, which includes access to the local schools, prompted him to form a brigade of bushhog mowers Sunday morning to cut the stretch of road from INSP's City of Light to Del Webb's Sun City Carolina Lakes.
"We obviously would have liked to do more; but let's face it, we were just a bunch of guys on tractors," he said.
Kevin Sexton, James Brooks, David Freeman and Hans Lengers helped Mulvaney mow the median and roadsides along the stretch of highway starting at 7 a.m. Sunday.
Freeman said he was looking for an opportunity to teach his son the importance of community service. His son, Brodie, and friends Dylan Deese and River Landry also helped collect trash in the area.
Mulvaney said the tall grass was one example of the problem with universal budget cuts.
"By forcing across-the-board cuts – where every program gets cut by an equal percentage – we don't prioritize, so the hot air balloon festival somewhere gets a 3 percent cut, and so does SCDOT's mowing budget. That just lacks basic common sense," he said.
Mulvaney said he decided to act rather than wait because he didn't want to see an accident because of the tall grass.
McKay said state roads such as U.S. 521, Harrisburg, Shelley Mullis, Jim Wilson, Henry Harris, Calvin Hall, Marvin and Stacey Howie roads would be cut by crews making their way north from Buford in the next few weeks.
Typically, the last cutting of the season is an extra short cut called a "clean-up cut," but they are doing that now instead, he said.
County roads, primarily local dirt roads and some paved roads, are mowed about every year and a half by the county's two mowing tractors, said Steve Willis, Lancaster County administrator.
Others, such as neighborhoods or businesses, are privately maintained in conjunction with the Department of Transportation.