Post Tagged with: "Horry County Council"

Horry County Council Keeps Circus Alive

June 9, 2017 5:06 AM
Horry County Council Keeps Circus Alive

“The Greatest Show on Earth” closed last month after 146 years of performances, but the circus remains alive and well among Horry County Council members.

Unfortunately for members, Horry County Council meetings will never be known as “The Greatest Show on Earth”. But, they may well be ranked high among the weirdest shows in politics.

Considering the dysfunctional mess that passes for federal government in Washington, D.C., that is not a ranking to be proud of.

Tuesday’s regular meeting of Horry County Council saw council members jumping through hoops to avoid making what seems an obvious decision regarding the Horry County Solid Waste Authority board.

The show apparently allowed the candidacy of Norfleet Jones for reappointment to the SWA board to remain alive for a little longer.

Jones served two consecutive terms on the SWA board from 2004-2012. After a one year hiatus, Jones was reappointed to the SWA board in 2013 for another four year term and is now seeking reappointment.

According to Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti, Jones was illegally appointed to the authority board in 2013 because he only had the one year hiatus, after serving two consecutive terms on the board, instead of the at least two years required by Horry County ordinance.

According to Carotti, Jones is not eligible for reappointment since his current board term appointment was not made in accordance with Horry County law.

That explanation should have made the appointment of Sam Johnson, the other candidate for appointment to the SWA board, a slam dunk.

Instead, council members chose to go through a convoluted debate that ended with a motion to defer the vote.

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Questionable Executive Session Item for HCSWA Board

May 22, 2017 6:05 PM
Questionable Executive Session Item for HCSWA Board

A very questionable executive session item has been added to the HCSWA (Horry County Solid Waste Authority) board meeting agenda for Tuesday.

The executive session item is listed as “Legal Advice Regarding Upcoming Board Member Appointment.”

Executive sessions are allowed by state law to be held in private, out of the public eye, for several reasons. The most normal reasons are the discussion of a matter regarding personnel of the authority over whom the board has ultimate control or legal briefing on pending litigation, contracts or other legal matters.

In the case of the questionable item on Tuesday’s board agenda, none of those reasons exist.

While HCSWA board members may be thought of as personnel of the authority, they are not hired, fired, or dealt with in any other manner by members of the HCSWA board or other agency officials. They are strictly within the purview of Horry County Council.

HCSWA board members are nominated either by the League of Cities or the Horry County Council. Board members are appointed by vote of county council Nobody associated with the HCSWA is involved in the process in any manner.

HCSWA board members receiving “legal advice regarding upcoming board member appointment” is akin to the HCSWA board receiving an executive session briefing on legal matters regarding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

The board has no authority in either above example and should not be wasting the time and money involved in receiving a briefing from the HCSWA counsel. Furthermore, it strikes me that the HCSWA counsel should know this is not an appropriate agenda item, especially in secret executive session.

Despite no need and no authority over the executive session item, expect the HCSWA board to go forward with this exercise in overreach.

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Questions Surrounding the HCSWA Board Member Elections

May 7, 2017 5:46 PM
Questions Surrounding the HCSWA Board Member Elections

Nothing is ever simple and straightforward when it involves the Horry County Solid Waste Authority (HCSWA) Board of Directors.

Last Tuesday, Horry County Council voted to appoint two members to the HCSWA board from among three nominated candidates. Two of the candidates, current board chairman Pam Creech and vice chairman Norfleet Jones, were incumbents. Candidate Sam Johnson was the outsider in the voting.

Creech was reelected by a majority of council members. However, Johnson and Jones tied in two successive votes with six each. After the first vote, Creech was named to remain on the board by council chairman Mark Lazarus who proceeded to hold a second ballot with just Jones and Johnson competing for one opening, against the advice of Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti.

Jones and Johnson tied with six votes each on both ballots.

Lazarus announced the second opening on the HCSWA board would be filled by council vote during council’s regular May 16, 2017 meeting. However, Lazarus stated nominations for the second position would remain open adding an additional question mark to the process.

The voting, however, only showed minor problems compared to what transpired before the vote.

On April 28, 2017, Esther Murphy, HCSWA’s Director of Recycling and Corporate Affairs sent an email to Horry County Council Clerk Pat Hartley with copies to all 12 members of county council as well as HCSWA Executive Director Danny Knight, Creech and Jones.

The email began, “Board member Norfleet Jones asked that we contact you regarding his term on the Solid Waste Authority Board, which ends on June 30, 2017. Mr. Jones indicated he would be completing his first term and would like to be reappointed to the Board for a second term…”

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Horry County Council’s Hospitality Fee Slush Fund

April 24, 2017 5:21 AM
Horry County Council’s Hospitality Fee Slush Fund

Horry County Council is within one ordinance reading of establishing a permanent slush fund for pet projects using 60% of Hospitality Fee collections countywide as the revenue source.

A 2.5% hospitality fee tax is collected on prepared foods and drinks, admissions and lodging throughout the county.

Forty percent of the revenue (1% of the total 2.5% tax) is returned to the original jurisdiction (incorporated areas or the county for unincorporated area collections) in which the tax is collected. The remaining 60 percent of the revenue (1.5% of the total 2.5% tax) goes to Horry County specifically to pay off bonds issued for Ride I road projects.

Some of those bonds will be paid off in 2017 with the remaining bonds projected to be paid off in 2019. When the Hospitality Fee legislation was passed over 20 years ago, county council established a sunset provision for the 1.5% portion pledged for bonds.

In other words, 60 percent of the Hospitality Fee was supposed to go away when those Ride I bonds were paid off.

But, once a tax is created, government hates to see it destroyed.

Therefore, county council is moving rapidly to remove the sunset clause and allow the full 2.5% tax to be collected ad infinitum. According to county administrator Chris Eldridge, this tax currently collects approximately $38 million in revenue to the county annually.

To put that amount into perspective, $38 million is approximately 25 percent of the county’s general fund budget for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins July 1, 2017.

The revenue from this tax would not go directly into the general fund. According to state law, it must be spent on tourism related projects.

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City Has Potential Nuclear Option in Parking Fee Issue

March 30, 2017 3:39 PM
City Has Potential Nuclear Option in Parking Fee Issue

The City of Myrtle Beach holds a potential nuclear option that could blow up the current parking fee debate between the city and Horry County into a much bigger and more explosive issue.

Nuclear options in political discussion come in various categories. One we hear about often is a threatened change in U.S. Senate rules that could effectively prohibit filibusters.

However, the nuclear option that Myrtle Beach appears to hold could change taxation for many residents within the county, both inside and outside the city limits.

A little background:

The city and county have been at odds over parking fees and areas they are charged in Myrtle Beach city limits.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus has addressed city council on several occasions attempting to reach some type of compromise that would allow county residents to pay $100 per year for a parking decal that would allow county residents to park at all city owned paid parking locations.

To date, the city has been reluctant to adopt Lazarus’ plan.

Personally, I don’t believe any of the city’s parking fees are justified, especially because they go to fund the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, a notoriously underperforming enterprise.

In response to the city’s reticence, county council voted last week to not include $200,000 for the city’s planned museum/library complex and $30,000 specifically for Chapin Memorial Library in the county budget. The city requested both amounts.

At Tuesday’s Myrtle Beach City Council meeting, council member Mary Jeffcoat requested city staff to prepare a review of the amount of property tax revenue city residents pay to the county and what services city residents receive as a result of those taxes.

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SWA to Ship More Trash Out of County

March 6, 2017 5:22 AM
SWA to Ship More Trash Out of County

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) will be shipping more construction and demolition trash out of the county in the coming months to meet requirements of Horry County Council.

When the SWA received council permission to change its budget in order to process recyclables from Charleston County, Horry County Council told the SWA that no airspace at the SWA landfill on Hwy 90 could be lost to Charleston trash.

Since the SWA landfill is the only facility in which Horry County municipal solid waste (household garbage) is disposed, council’s concern was that the full landfill capacity be saved for Horry County residents.

In approximately five years, MSW and C&D waste from Horry County will be commingled in the SWA landfill, according to SWA officials. The landfill’s available disposal volume for Horry County trash is currently projected to run out in 2042.

In order to meet council’s requirement, SWA executive director Danny Knight told council the SWA agreed to ship C&D waste, currently disposed at the SWA, out of county in an amount equal to Charleston residual trash resulting from the SWA/Charleston County recycling contract.

“We have structured a program where we (SWA) will match ton for ton, day for day, however you want to do it, we will send that much material out of our landfill to a landfill across the river,” Knight told the Horry County Infrastructure and Regulation Committee at its September 24, 2015 meeting.

SWA then board chairman Lance Thompson reiterated Knight’s statement at the same meeting, “This will be a net neutral effect. Anything that’s coming to our landfill from the direction of Charleston County, we’re going to send out (of county) the same amount of C&D…”

After an extensive study of SWA reports related to the Charleston County recyclable contract, Grand Strand Daily determined that requirement was not being met.

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Horry County Council and the 2nd Amendment

February 18, 2017 5:00 AM
Horry County Council and the 2nd Amendment

The 2nd Amendment and the issue of firing weapons in close proximity to other people’s residences will again be discussed at the Horry County Council regular meeting Tuesday night.

It’s been nearly five years since Horry County Council decided not to vote on an ordinance that would restrict gun usage on private property in close proximity to residences.

At that time, the ‘Duck Dynasty crowd’, in full camouflage, packed council chambers to protest any restriction on their perceived 2nd Amendment rights with respect to where they could fire their guns in the unincorporated areas of the county.

In the interim, nothing has changed.

It would seem to be a matter of common sense that a person wouldn’t discharge a gun so that the bullets end up in a neighbor’s yard, especially if the neighbor is standing in his yard. But, that doesn’t seem to be the case in Horry County.

As I recall the discussion last time, wasn’t about where the gun was discharged, but, rather, about where the projectile could land that was considered being restricted. And that discussion didn’t even get to first reading of an ordinance.

There is no law in Horry County prohibiting discharge of firearms within a certain proximity of residences, according to county attorney Arrigo Carotti.

This issue has again been brewing in the county for the last year. In the interim:

Council chairman Mark Lazarus said we need to have a discussion (about the problem).

“As the county has grown and more and more housing developments have taken place in the unincorporated areas, protecting your 2nd Amendment rights, protecting hunters and everything else, we need to look and see, we need to protect the people living in their houses also and in the neighborhoods,” Lazarus said.

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Additional Funding for Coast RTA

December 5, 2016 5:42 AM
Additional Funding for Coast RTA

The message from last week’s Horry County Transportation Committee meeting was Horry County Council would search for ways to provide additional funding for Coast RTA.

The transportation agency currently receives $1.055 million annually from the county’s general fund budget. According to remarks by council chairman Mark Lazarus, Coast RTA would like that amount to rise to approximately $1.9 million per year.

In addition, Coast RTA wants to spend a total of approximately $16 million on capital improvements for the system over the next several years. It should be noted, all of this money does not have to come from the county or other local government funding sources. The federal government provides 80% funding for capital expenditures with a 20% local match.

Still, $3.33 million must come from some form of local funding for these capital projects to be realized.

“We’ve got to figure out how to fund them,” Lazarus said during the meeting.

Lazarus said Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge was investigating ways to provide Coast RTA with recurrent funding. Lazarus said a one-cent local option sales tax was one possibility that would be looked at.

During the discussion, Lazarus made one comment I didn’t understand. He said state law prohibits the use of (property tax) millage from being used to fund transportation.

However, property tax millage is exactly what is being used now and has been for years to provide Coast RTA with annual grants from Horry County.

An additional one-cent sales tax is unacceptable, in our opinion. A one-cent tax was just approved by voters for RIDE III last month. If a sales tax is the preferred way to fund Coast RTA, it should have been included in the list of projects for RIDE III, a perfectly acceptable use of RIDE funds if it had been included in the project list.

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SkyDive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County in Court This Month

November 1, 2016 7:25 AM
SkyDive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County in Court This Month

Skydive Myrtle Beach and Horry County are scheduled to face off in S.C. Court of Appeals November 3, 2016 for oral arguments in the case of Skydive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County (2014-002491).

The basic question in this lawsuit is whether Horry County acted fraudulently in stopping Skydive Myrtle Beach from operating its business at Grand Strand Airport.

A separate court ruling from a federal Administrative Law Judge is expected to be issued on or before November 18, 2016 addressing the actions of the Federal Aviation Administration in issuing a 73 page ruling against Skydive Myrtle Beach on the basis of very sketchy information provided by Horry County Department of Airports.

The case built by Horry County Department of Airports to evict Skydive Myrtle Beach from Grand Strand Airport has more holes than Swiss cheese.

After Skydive Myrtle Beach reported HCDA to the Federal Aviation Administration in February 2014 for discriminatory actions, Horry County officials began looking to cover their tracks.

HCDA began an incident reporting system that logged 112 alleged safety violations by Skydive Myrtle Beach over the next few months.

None of the 112 alleged safety incidents HCDA insists Skydive Myrtle Beach committed were ever properly reported to the FAA, according to FAA reporting requirements.

A recent Freedom of Information Act response from the FAA to SkyDive Myrtle Beach officials goes further. It says there are no records of the alleged safety violations in the FAA reporting system.

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Horry County Will Use Unrestricted Funds to Begin Repairs

October 17, 2016 6:41 AM
Horry County Will Use Unrestricted Funds to Begin Repairs

Horry County Council is expected to pass a resolution at its regular October 18, 2016 meeting to transfer money from its fiscal stabilization reserves balances to begin repairs to infrastructure damaged during Hurricane Matthew and the resultant flooding.

The money will come from unrestricted fund balances in the general fund, fire fund, stormwater fund and recreation fund. The unrestricted fund balances are from excess revenue or decreased spending in the prior fiscal year budget.

The use of these funds should allow the county to begin repairs without issuing new debt while awaiting federal disaster funds to become available to the county.

The extent of needed repairs will not become known until flooding recedes from the roads.

After the flooding experienced by the county from Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the county instituted its current stormwater management plan and fees. However, we are learning again that water from a major storm event can’t really be managed.

Another issue that will no doubt arise as a result of Hurricane Matthew is what will happen with the hundreds of privately owned dirt roads that were recently removed from the county road maintenance plan.

During an emergency meeting last week, council approved the expenditure of approximately $600k to $1 million for the removal of storm debris from county owned rights of way.

These funds will be used for the removal of tree debris only for the benefit of residents in the unincorporated areas.

The county is maintaining a website to provide up to date information on road flooding throughout the county. Go to: http://www.horrycounty.org/gis/roadClosures/

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