Post Tagged with: "Henry McMaster"

Seriously Flawed Settlement Agreement Proposed for Hospitality Fee Lawsuit

November 7, 2019 4:34 AM
Seriously Flawed Settlement Agreement Proposed for Hospitality Fee Lawsuit

The proposed settlement agreement presented to county council at its regular meeting Tuesday night appears to have many serious flaws, according to information gathered by Grand Strand Daily.

Council member Harold Worley vented his frustration with the settlement agreement during the council meeting. His complaint was having attorney fees of approximately $7 million come off the top of an approximately $20 million the settlement award if the lawsuit is settled as a class action.

The $20 million was collected from a countywide 1.5% hospitality fee collected between the date the bonds were paid off in February 2019 until June 30, 2019. Worley’s statement is based on a 1/3 contingency fee to be paid off the top of the settlement amount to the attorneys representing the cities.

The basic claim in the original lawsuit was that Horry County illegally collected a 1.5% countywide hospitality fee since January 1, 2017. The fee was collected with the agreement of the cities for an initial 20 year period beginning January 1, 1997, in order to pay off bonds issued to pay for the initial RIDE road projects.

The county first extended collection of the fee until the bonds were paid off and, later, in perpetuity. The cities allege they did not give approval for the extensions which prevents the county from legally collecting the fee in their respective taxing jurisdictions. However, the cities apparently dropped a claim for fees used to pay off the bonds between January 1, 2017 and February 2019.

But that money is not the cities to claim, a fact GSD first reported last spring when the lawsuit was filed. It is not the cities’ money. It is not the county’s money. It is taxpayer money.

 If it were held the county did illegally collect hospitality fees after the bonds were paid off, any rebates of tax revenue would be owed to the people from whom the taxes were collected, not the cities in which the fee was collected.

Hospitality fees are collected by vendors at point of sale and remitted monthly directly to the county in accordance with the provisions of state law. The cities are not involved in the collection process at all, nor is it their money being collected.

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Smooth Evacuation Contradicts I-73 Claims

September 3, 2019 9:23 AM
Smooth Evacuation Contradicts I-73 Claims

The Grand Strand evacuated Zone A yesterday in preparation of the oncoming Hurricane Dorian.

Zone A includes all properties east of U.S. 17, Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach. In other words, the major portion of hotels along the Grand Strand and those permanent residents who evacuated.

The evacuation went smoothly – no major traffic jams on the routes out and no sitting in an idling car on the highways for hours at a time.

I personally drove to Myrtle Beach at 11:30 a.m. yesterday morning along S.C. 22 and back just after 3 p.m. Traffic going west on S.C. 22 on my trip in was the heaviest I have ever seen on that highway and I have lived here 15 years before that road was built.

Although the traffic was heavy, it was moving slowly but steadily and the traffic at the on ramp from S.C. 31 was about one mile long but moving.

When I went home, going west on S.C. 22 at three o’clock, there was no traffic to speak of all the way to Hwy 90 where I exited.

I have been told by locals who travelled U.S. 501 and Hwy 544, the same conditions prevailed – heavy traffic moving slow but steady and gone by mid-afternoon.

All of this was accomplished with normal traffic flow – no lane reversals on any of the highways.

This is the second year in a row that evacuation in preparation for an oncoming hurricane went this smoothly.

What does all of this mean? We DON’T need I-73 to ensure a safe, smooth evacuation from the Grand Strand.

Last year, after Hurricane Florence, Seventh District Congressman Tom Rice asked Gov. Henry McMaster to amend the state’s request for hurricane relief funds to include $348 million in immediate funding for I-73.

A statement on Rice’s Congressional website announcing the request read,” I wrote a letter to Governor Henry McMaster urging him to amend his application to the federal government for disaster relief from Hurricane Florence to include immediate funding for I-73 as an adequate evacuation route. In the wake of Hurricane Florence’s devastation, and the ongoing, life-threatening risks it poses to our residents, funding an adequate evacuation route for the Grand Strand needs to be a top priority.”

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County Council Kicks I-73 Decision Down the Road

August 29, 2019 8:12 AM
County Council Kicks I-73 Decision Down the Road

Horry County Council again dodged making a definitive decision on the I-73 contract with SCDOT at its special meeting Wednesday.

Instead of voting to cancel or go forward with the contract, council voted to defer a final decision until the end of the year.

In the meantime, council has asked the cities to step up with funding for the project or the county would be forced to cancel the contract by December 31, 2019.

In simple terms, the county does not have the ability to fund the up to $25 million per year currently promised in the contract. SCDOT has asked for $12.5 million in the first year, but plans to bond against $25 million per year in future years.

The City of Myrtle Beach continues to cloud the truth by saying the county can fund the contract with its hospitality fee revenues from the unincorporated areas. This is not true.

With the county now banned from collecting a 1.5% hospitality fee, the municipalities and the cities collecting their own hospitality and accommodations taxes, the county has no more than approximately $10 million it can designate for I-73.

In order to reach the $25 million per year called for in the SCDOT contract, Myrtle Beach would have to pledge approximately the same as the county, $10 million per year, and North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Conway, Loris, Aynor, Atlantic Beach and Briarcliff would have to combine to make up the remaining $5 million.

I don’t believe any of that is going to happen. Not only would the cities have to pledge the funds each year, there would need to be an intergovernmental between the county and the municipalities formalizing those commitments and each party would need to sign the contract with SCDOT.

Those are the details of what needs to happen to keep the SCDOT contract alive. However, there are other details that make keeping the contract more disturbing.

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Political Change Does Not Extend to Columbia

June 27, 2018 6:46 AM
Political Change Does Not Extend to Columbia

Governor Henry McMaster and Attorney General Alan Wilson rolled to big victories in Republican Primary runoff elections yesterday meaning there will be no changes to the political power structure in Columbia.

Most of the incumbents in the General Assembly will be returning because they faced no opposition in the primaries or the upcoming November general election.

When voters continue to send the same people back to Columbia election after election, they can’t expect changes in the way state government operates. It is simple to suppose that special interests and lobbyists will continue to control the legislative agenda in Columbia at the expense of the average citizen.

Horry County will continue to be a large donor county to the rest of the state because our legislative delegation is so weak. Roads that should be paid for with state and federal funds will continue to be funded by local option sales taxes. The real estate and development lobby will continue to oppose impact fees satisfied that current citizens will continue to pay for infrastructure costs associated with new development.

One interesting sidebar to yesterday’s runoffs locally was the City of Myrtle Beach removed candidate signs from the areas near polling precincts in the city early in the day. According to several sources who spoke with the workers removing the signs, “the word came from City Hall.”

Whether this was an attempt at voter suppression or just another example of the arrogance that continues to emanate from city officials, it does seem to show complete disregard for the election process.

However, the citizens in Horry County will see some changes at the county level with the election of a new chairman for county government.

No longer will over 20 minute response times to 911 calls be acceptable to council while large pots of tax dollars are accumulated to build Interstate 73 through Marion and Dillon counties to connect to Interstate 95.

No longer will the needs of county departments be ignored because of personal animosities in Conway.

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Election Change Is In the Air

June 24, 2018 9:39 AM
Election Change Is In the Air

(Ed. Note – The picture with this story is of a Facebook Post by Heather Ammons Crawford, which started the entire “Union Thugs” commentary in the closing days of the Lazarus campaign.)

Defeating an incumbent politician used to be a most difficult undertaking in South Carolina politics. Now it’s almost becoming the norm in Horry County.

Two out of three incumbents on the ballot lost in Myrtle Beach last fall. An incumbent fell to a write-in candidate in Surfside Beach earlier this year.

The latest round of primaries on June 12th saw a state legislator and a long-time school board member go down to opposition. Bill Howard was able to just hold off challenger Dean Pappas in the only contested Republican primary that went to an incumbent. The irony of that race is that newly elected Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune came out late for Pappas and her endorsement may have hurt Pappas in the final days because Bethune has quickly sided with what is considered the establishment in Myrtle Beach even though she was a candidate for “change” in the fall.

Challenger William Bailey took out incumbent Greg Duckworth in the Republican primary for S.C. House District 104. Challenger Helen Smith defeated incumbent Pam Timms in the Horry County School Board District 6 Republican primary. Smith is a former school board chairman in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, but probably half of today’s registered voters weren’t living in the county when she last left office so she qualifies as a change candidate.

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Pat McKinney Drops Candidacy, Statewide Vote Recount Cancelled

June 12, 2014 8:30 PM
Pat McKinney Drops Candidacy, Statewide Vote Recount Cancelled

An automatic statewide vote recount to finalize the second position in the Lt. Governor’s race was cancelled this evening when unofficial second place finisher Pat McKinney dropped out of the race.

McKinney, who finished in second place in unofficial vote tallies after Tuesday’s primary, led third place finisher Mike Campbell by 1,250 votes triggering an automatic recount because the margin separating the two was within a 1% margin of the total vote.

According to campaign manager Taylor Hall, McKinney decided to drop out of the race for personal reasons having lost his father and father-in-law within the last two months.

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