Post Tagged with: "Horry County Council"

Is Further Expansion of SWA Landfill Needed?

August 4, 2018 8:00 AM
Is Further Expansion of SWA Landfill Needed?

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority’s latest plan to extend operations at the Hwy 90 landfill until approximately 2050 appears to have sprung out of nowhere in recent months for no apparent reason.

At a recent board meeting, SWA Executive Director Danny Knight told board members the latest expansion plan was moving forward because it was the authority’s responsibility to maximize the use of available land at the Hwy 90 site for waste disposal.

Actually, that statement runs counter to the ordinance that established the SWA in December 1990. Ordinance 60-90 states there is a need to develop an acceptable alternative for solid waste disposal and to reduce the amount of tonnage disposed in sanitary landfills in Horry County. It further states the high water table and other geologic characteristics in Horry County “make utilization and expansion of the existing landfill and development of new landfills especially expensive and difficult.”

Through the years since the authority’s opening in 1992, that section of the ordinance has been forgotten or ignored by a succession of SWA staff and board members.

The timeline set by the SWA for what is being called “Piggyback Expansion Phase III” hopes for a permit for the expansion to be issued by SCDHEC in June 2019 even though Piggyback Phase II is only now under construction and Phase III will not be needed until 2040 at projected disposal rates.

Why the rush? Shouldn’t the SWA staff and board members be seeking alternative means of disposal of the county’s solid waste?

The answer to the first question is not available to the public and not known by county council members, only a few of whom have recently become aware of these expansion plans.

The answer to the second question is “Yes” only if the SWA board and staff believe it is their responsibility to obey the law that established the authority in the first place. To date that has not been the case.

And what of the cost? It was only 18 months ago that the SWA projected a $33 million shortfall in needed funds by 2024 unless it received a nearly 50% increase in tipping fees. County council approved an immediate $7 per ton increase with additional $1 per year increases as the SWA needs them.

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County Council Votes Hospitality Tax Funds for Public Safety and I-73

July 27, 2018 4:10 AM
County Council Votes Hospitality Tax Funds for Public Safety and I-73

Last Tuesday’s special meeting of Horry County Council provided some interesting insights into ongoing deliberations about the future use of hospitality tax revenue.

Technically called a hospitality fee by Horry County Government, the two and one-half percent tax is collected on all tourist accommodations, prepared foods and attraction tickets sold throughout the county. The revenue is split with one cent per dollar going to the jurisdiction (municipality or unincorporated county) in which it is collected.

The remaining one and one-half cent per dollar goes to the county to pay off Ride I bonds. Those bonds are expected to be paid off in the first half of calendar year 2019.

A sunset provision was placed on the one and one-half cent per dollar tax, when legislation implementing the tax in Horry County was passed, providing that portion of the tax would end when the bonds were paid off.

County council voted in Spring 2017 to remove the sunset provision and extend the tax indefinitely. The one and one-half cent per dollar tax is expected to generate $41 million revenue in calendar year 2019.

When the sunset provision was removed by a three reading ordinance of county council last spring, council chairman Mark Lazarus stated he would like to use the revenue to fund construction of Interstate 73. The projected revenue would have allowed the county to bond approximately $500 million for a 20-year period to help fund the I-73 project. It is expected completion of the I-73 portion from I-95 near Dillon to U.S. 17 in Myrtle Beach will cost approximately $1.2 billion.

This spring, Johnny Gardner challenged Lazarus for the Republican nomination for council chairman on the November 2018 general election ballot. During the primary campaign, Gardner focused on the public safety and infrastructure needs of the county, proposing using a portion of hospitality tax revenue to help meet those needs. Gardner won the nomination in June 2018 primary voting.

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Horry County’s Political Schism

July 22, 2018 9:22 AM
Horry County’s Political Schism

One glance at the agenda for Tuesday’s upcoming special meeting and workshop of Horry County Council demonstrates the political schism that exists in local politics.

Council will consider two resolutions that propose advisory referendums on the upcoming November 2018 general election ballot to raise countywide property taxes by 10 mils to fund police, EMS, Sheriff and E911service improvements throughout the county and one to raise property taxes by an additional 9.5 mils in the unincorporated areas of the county to fund fire improvements.

The entire discussion of these two referendums is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to the defeat of incumbent council chairman Mark Lazarus by Johnny Gardner in the June 2018 Republican Primary for the nomination for council chairman.

One of the reasons Gardner won the nomination was his motto of “First Responders First” and his promise to take care of the additional needs of public safety departments in upcoming county budgets. It must be noted, Gardner never proposed tax increases to fund additional personnel and pay raises for first responders. Rather, he proposed prioritizing the needs of public safety during the budget process with current revenues and funds.

Over the last five years, Lazarus and council have basically ignored the increasing needs of public safety. After the voters made themselves heard by voting Lazarus out in June, it is all of a sudden a council priority necessitating a special meeting.

Being advisory rather than binding referendums, the results will mean nothing. The resolutions were first proposed by council member Tyler Servant at the June 19, 2018 regular meeting of council.

Servant said he was a strong fiscal conservative Republican who opposed tax increases, but proposed allowing the voters to make the decision. A true, fiscal conservative would first look to current revenues and funds to meet these needs and consider tax increases only after every other option has been considered and discarded.

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Solid Waste Authority Looking for Further Expansion

July 20, 2018 8:45 AM
Solid Waste Authority Looking for Further Expansion

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) is preparing to request a Determination of Need from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control for permission to further expand capacity at its Highway 90 landfill.

The request, expected to be sent in next month, will begin the process to add a Phase III Piggyback landfill cell for Class 3 Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and expansion of the current Class 2 Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste landfill.

The SWA says it needs this expansion to continue serving the needs of the residents of Horry County for landfill capacity.

Included in the plans for Phase III is a proposed bridge over Sterritt Swamp and a new roadway snaking through wetlands areas on the authority’s 1187 acre tract adjacent to the current landfill site. The bridge and roadways are needed to mine approximately one million square yards of dirt on the 1187 property and haul it to the landfill for construction.

It is only 18 months ago that the SWA was literally begging Horry County Council to approve an increase in tipping fees at the Hwy 90 landfill to keep the authority solvent. The need for the increase in fees was blamed on capital expenditures associated with current Phase II Piggyback Expansion and planned Vertical Expansion for the MSW landfill.

Horry County Council approved an immediate $7 per ton increase in tipping fees for MSW with additional $1 per ton increments for seven more years and a $1 per ton increase for C&D.

The SWA landfill sits in an environmentally sensitive area surrounded by Sterritt Swamp on three sides. Its origin dates back to open, unlined garbage dumps that served the City of Conway since the 1960’s.

As the state was preparing what would become the South Carolina Solid Waste Policy Management Act of 1991, Horry County Council formed the SWA, by county ordinance 60-90, to conform with the new state law.

A hydrology report prepared in 1990 by HDR Engineering stated that no soils in Horry County were listed as fair to good for landfills. The 1990 report and several subsequent through 2001 stated the Hwy 90 landfill site was hydrologically unsuitable for a landfill due to the proximity of Sterritt Swamp.

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County Council’s Phony Tax Referendum

July 10, 2018 1:32 PM
County Council’s Phony Tax Referendum

Horry County Council is expected to have a discussion next week about placing an advisory referendum on the November 2018 general election ballot regarding tax increases for public safety.

The issue was proposed by council member Tyler Servant at last month’s council meeting. Acknowledging the main topic of the primary election which cost council chairman Mark Lazarus nomination to another term in office, Servant said he was opposed to raising taxes but believed the voters should have a say on whether they wanted to pay higher taxes to increase public safety services in the county.

Council members Dennis DiSabato and Cam Crawford jumped on the bandwagon, acknowledging a need for more public safety personnel and facilities in the county but saying the voters should make the decision.

The discussion will be a waste of time as an advisory referendum will not solve the problem of funding for public safety needs. Regardless of how the referendum is worded and what percentage of the vote it may receive, an advisory binds the council to no action and, furthermore, does not provide permission from voters to raise taxes above the limits of Act 388.

The proposal for a discussion and resolution vote to place the advisory referendum on the ballot appears to be an attempt to divert the discussion from various alternatives for public safety funding to a possible tax increase.

Republican chairman nominee Johnny Gardner, who defeated Lazarus in the June primary voting, never mentioned raising taxes while he campaigned on increasing public safety personnel numbers and pay throughout the county.

Gardner said the current 20 ½ minutes average elapsed time it takes from when a 911 call is answered until a first responder arrives on the scene is unacceptable. Gardner pledged to make public safety funding priority one in the budget process.

At times, when extra sources of tax dollars become available, public safety staffing is never on the radar of most council members and county staff.

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County Council Breaks Budget Promise to Treasurer

June 21, 2018 3:32 AM
County Council Breaks Budget Promise to Treasurer

When Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones agreed to drop her lawsuit against Horry County Government last month, there was an unwritten understanding that county council would include funding needs for her department in the budget for the coming fiscal year.

Now that understanding not only remains unwritten, but also remains unpassed.

During its third reading of the Horry County budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19 Tuesday night, council defeated, by a 6-6 vote, an amendment including budget enhancements for the Treasurer’s department. The budget amendment also called for additions in the $40,000 range each for the Clerk of Courts, Veterans Affairs and Voter Registration budgets.

Council member Johnny Vaught introduced the amendment, seconded by council member Harold Worley. Council chairman Mark Lazarus spoke strongly in its favor.

According to discussions of the amendment by council members, Jones identified revenue additions and/or savings in the amount of $123,000 for the coming fiscal year. Her request for budget enhancements would have only cost the county $111,000.

Additionally, one position provided in the enhancements would have gone to collection of the nearly $88 million in unpaid property taxes that are owed to the county.

In other words, the county would have made more money from voting for the enhancements than it saves by not voting for them.

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Johnny Gardner’s Campaign Message Spurs County Council Discussion

June 20, 2018 2:03 AM
Johnny Gardner’s Campaign Message Spurs County Council Discussion

One week after defeating incumbent Mark Lazarus for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman, Johnny Gardner’s campaign message is already driving council discussions.

Throughout his campaign Gardner spoke of putting “Public Safety First” and charging fees on new development to help pay for the impact it causes on county goods and services.

During its regular meeting Tuesday night, council approved two resolutions directly tied to those issues.

By an 11-1 margin, council member Tyler Servant opposing, council approved a resolution to encourage the South Carolina General Assembly to amend the current state Impact Fee law to make it more user friendly for local governments struggling to meet the costs associated with new development.

Later in the meeting, Servant introduced a resolution to instruct staff to bring back to council a proposed advisory referendum question to address raising tax millage to fund increased salaries and additional personnel for police and fire/rescue departments as well as an additional police precinct for Carolina Forest.

After discussion, it was agreed to split the issue into two referendum questions, one for police and rescue personnel and another for fire, because of the different ways in which police and rescue personnel are funded in the budget from that used to fund fire personnel.

County Administrator Chris Eldridge was instructed to meet with the the Police and Fire/Rescue chiefs to determine the increased needs in their respective departments to fully meet the county’s public safety requirements.

Council must approve referendum questions by the end of July in order to meet the August 15th deadline to have them included on the November 2018 general election ballot.

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County Missing Point on First Responders

May 22, 2018 6:06 AM
County Missing Point on First Responders

Sometimes mistakes lead to larger truths. That’s what happened yesterday when I made a mistake in a story about Horry County Council passing a pay increase for all first responders.

County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus called to correct me and rightly so.

As the day wore on and the story and correction became known, I started receiving calls from first responders.

The overriding theme in those phone calls was, “It’s not about the money.”

Sure a pay raise is nice, but it’s probably not going to stop the overall trend of attrition from the ranks of first responders in Horry County.

Because of continuing shortages of officers in police and fire departments, the officers that are employed are being worked to exhaustion.

The Lazarus plan through this year’s budget planning was to give a pay raise to all first responders to stop attrition. Then, when all personnel slots are filled council can talk about increasing numbers in the police and fire departments.

The problems with losing officers are multi-fold. New officers are hired, sent to academies for training, outfitted with uniforms and gear to perform the job, all of which costs money. Training continues after they go to work. The more experience they gain through working on the job, the more valuable they become to the overall efficiency of the force.

If, after three, four or five years officers continue to throw up their hands and say ‘I’m leaving, I’ve had enough of these working conditions,’ the county loses more than just a body. It also loses the experience that officer gained on the job.

Hiring a new officer may fill a position, but the experience is lost and the overall efficiency of the force is less than it would be if retention of experienced officers was high.

Lazarus said through the Spring Budget Retreat, “It’s all about the money.” The theory being an increase in pay would result in an increase in retention of officers.

But, the men and women in the trenches, so to speak, those who are working the overtime and responding to service call after service call, sometimes on shifts of 48 straight hours, say, “It’s not about the money. We need help.”

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County Adds to Flames in Treasurer Lawsuit

February 26, 2018 8:31 AM
County Adds to Flames in Treasurer Lawsuit

Horry County Government threw more gasoline on the fire it has created with the Horry County Treasurer’s Office with a new filing in court Friday on the Treasurer lawsuit filed by Angie Jones.

The new filing is an amended answer and amended counterclaims associated with the original lawsuit against Horry County Government and Administrator Chris Eldridge, which was filed in November 2017.

One of the new complaints by Horry County is that Jones has refused to provide detailed information about her budget request for the next fiscal year to the Horry County Assistant Administrator Justin Powell.

The counterclaim states, “The Horry County budgeting process is handled by Horry County Council and administered by the Horry County Administrator.”

An email from Jones to Powell states, “I will deal directly with council in regards to my budget needs …”

From the above two quotes, it would appear that Jones is adhering to the provisions in state law. She is a countywide elected official elected by the people to run the Treasurer’s Office. The administrator is appointed by Horry County Council to administrate policies decided by vote of council for the departments that council has control over.

A South Carolina Attorney General’s Opinion dated October 26, 2007 states, “With reference to budgetary matters, while it’s true that the council exercises totally the budgetary authority of a county and can decrease, increase, or otherwise alter appropriations for county offices, nevertheless, it cannot so decrease the appropriations of an elected official’s office so as to prevent the proper functioning thereof.

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Horry County Treasurer Request Nixed by Administrator, County Council

January 25, 2018 5:00 AM
Horry County Treasurer Request Nixed by Administrator, County Council

A request by Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones to have county administrator Chris Eldridge sign off on an addendum to a contract with a county software supplier was shot down at Tuesday’s regular meeting of county council.

Jones made a presentation to county council about a new service the Treasurer wanted to institute in Horry County. The service would provide taxpayers who pay vehicle taxes in person at the Treasurer’s Office or one of the satellite offices with a new vehicle registration and decal for the license plate when the payment is made.

A convenience fee of $1 would be added to the vehicle tax notices to add this service.

According to Jones presentation, this service is already in place in 32 of the 46 counties in South Carolina and the $1 convenience fee is established by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

After Jones presentation, council chairman Mark Lazarus called for Horry County staff to address some issues with allowing the Treasurer’s Office to offer this convenience.

Eldridge moved to the microphone to speak for the staff. He began his remarks with the statement, “Of course there is litigation going on currently between the Treasurer’s Office and Horry County Council.”

Actually, the litigation is Angie Jones, Individually and as Horry County Treasurer v. Horry County, a body Politic and Chris Eldridge, in his capacity as Horry County Administrator.

Eldridge went on to say the request was a budgetary issue and if council wants it done, “it isn’t that much.” He would prefer to see it go through the normal budgetary process and would not support the $1 fee.

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