Post Tagged with: "Horry County Council"

Guns and Where to Fire Them

August 24, 2016 5:04 PM
Guns and Where to Fire Them

Where guns can be fired is a question Horry County Council will struggle with over the next several months.

Infrastructure and Regulation Committee Chairman Johnny Vaught told a group of concerned citizens from the Hillsborough sub-division Tuesday that the county would not be locating a public firing range on Horry County Solid Waste Authority property near their development.

This announcement ended months of concern for those citizens that their peaceful community would be disrupted with the sound of weapons being fired nearby.

Vaught said the county would continue to look for a suitable piece of property in the more rural sections of the county in which to possibly locate a firing range.

Whether the county should get into the firing range business at all is a legitimate question being asked by citizens throughout the county. There are several privately owned firing ranges already in the county and there is strong feeling among some citizens that government should not compete with private business.

The Horry County Public Safety Committee discussed a different gun problem the day before. There is increasing concern among the county’s many sub-divisions of residents taking target practice on their property even though they are in close proximity to neighboring homes.

Horry County Council member Paul Prince said something should be done to prohibit such activity in sub-divisions where the houses are close together.

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

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

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International Drive Construction Begins

August 22, 2016 1:23 PM
International Drive Construction Begins

(Pictured above Horry County Council member Johnny Vaught (left) and Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus.)

After a series of legal delays orchestrated by the Coastal Conservation League and its allies, Horry County is moving forward on constructing the road bed on International Drive.

According to sources familiar with the court proceedings, a SC District Court judge ordered the permits issued after Horry County won the latest round in court.

Now, with the SCDHEC water quality and US Army Corps of Engineers wetland fill permits in hand, county officials hope to have the road bed ready for emergency vehicles within 60 days.

Further court challenges from CCL could be forthcoming. But, for the present, work on International Drive is moving forward.

The entire project will not be completed for approximately 12 months. Requests for Proposals from contractors desiring to bid on the project are expected to be advertised in October.

Meanwhile Horry County employees from the county’s Infrastructure and Regulation Division are completing preliminary work such as right of way clearing and getting the road bed up to standards that can handle emergency vehicles. This is expected to be accomplished over the next 60 days.

The picture accompanying this post shows Horry County Council member Johnny Vaught and Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus standing in front of a bulldozer with a picture of Vaught’s late uncle, Lt. Gen. James B. Vaught, on the blade.

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More Legal Problems for Horry County Police Department

August 2, 2016 6:45 AM
More Legal Problems for Horry County Police Department

A recent lawsuit filed against the Horry County Police Department and individual officers highlights the systemic problems within the department.

While there have been more sensational headlines of sexual harassment of victims by HCPD detectives and a general breakdown within the entire detective division, this lawsuit demonstrates the attitude that is at the heart of the problems in the department.

The case is Brian E. Little v. Horry County Police Department et al. Case number 2016CP2604670.

In the pleadings, Little, the plaintiff, claims he had a building and a recreational vehicle vandalized by neighborhood juveniles.

In filing a report about the damage to HCPD officers, Little provided the officers with photographs from a security system on his property.

According to the pleadings:

HCPD officers did nothing.

Little, then, approached the mother of one of the juveniles and obtained a signed statement from the juvenile admitting to the damage, which he provided to police.

Again, nothing was done by HCPD.

Approximately two months later, Little’s property was vandalized again and, again, HCPD did what it does best – nothing.

Ultimately, Little began passing out circulars in his area about the vandalism to assist a neighborhood watch program. While he was passing out the circulars, little was approached by HCPD officers telling him he can’t pass out his circulars. Little complained to the officers that HCPD was doing nothing and, ultimately, they arrested Little for harassment.

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Community Violence Subcommittee Stuck in Neutral

July 24, 2016 5:39 AM
Community Violence Subcommittee Stuck in Neutral

For the last three months, the Horry County Community Violence Subcommittee appears to have been stuck in neutral rather than moving forward to address the problems of violent crime in communities throughout the county.

In its last three meetings, Community Violence Subcommittee members have been discussing collection of data, both demographics and crime, from various websites in order to compare Horry County to counties from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Will this data collection and comparison help?

One assumes what is happening in communities such as Burgess, Poplar, Socastee and Racepath is more important than what is happening in Chatham County, Georgia or Orange County, Florida if the goal is to counter crime and its effects in Horry County.

(If the goal is to complete a report on how Horry County stacks up to other counties in relation to those statistics, then the current work of the subcommittee is on track.)

It would seem that meetings with pastors and other community leaders as well as parents and citizens would yield better information about what the problems are and what the community can do to counter those problems as well as what help it needs from sources such as police and other government agencies.

At one time, Horry County had effective Crimestoppers, D.A.R.E. and community policing programs that have fallen by the wayside in recent years.

The committee is currently scheduled to make a report on its progress at the September 26, 2016, meeting of the Horry County Public Safety Committee. At that time, it plans to present a survey form, presumably developed from its data mining, for citizens, at least in designated high crime areas, to fill out and return.

After receiving the completed survey forms, there seems to be some desire among subcommittee members to meet with citizens and leaders in various communities in the county.

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WestJet Deal Still Haunts County

July 21, 2016 6:07 AM
WestJet Deal Still Haunts County

A 2013 contract between WestJet Airlines and Horry County Government is still costing the county three years later.

Boiling the deal down to its essence, Horry County Council agreed to guarantee WestJet a 15 percent profit on a new airline route established for the 2013 summer tourist season. The county placed a maximum payout of $1 million on its guarantee.

At the time the deal was struck, we heard pronouncements from members of county council such as it was ‘almost guaranteed that this deal would not cost the county one cent.’

Instead the county owed WestJet $500,873 at the end of 2013 in order to live up to its contractual obligations.

A meeting of the Horry County Administration Committee, held on October 11, 2013, agreed to a payment plan whereby the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce would pay WestJet the total amount due and the county would repay the Chamber out of its 5 percent set aside funds from county accommodations tax.

At that time, a balance of approximately $250,000 was in the county’s set aside account. The remainder would be repaid to the Chamber from county set aside accommodations tax funds in the coming years.

The Administration Committee approved a resolution at its meeting Tuesday to allow for continuing repayment of those funds.

The deal with WestJet raises several points about the functions of county government.

This was a bad deal from the beginning. County government has no business guaranteeing a private business a profit that includes the use of any county tax funds, property or otherwise.

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Economic Incentives and the Kingman Airline Services Deal

July 16, 2016 5:35 AM
Economic Incentives and the Kingman Airline Services Deal

The recent announcement by Horry County officials that Kingman Airline Services will be expanding its business to Myrtle Beach International Airport is one in which enthusiasm must be tempered.

The announcement was accompanied by sparkling pronouncements from such dignitaries as Gov. Nikki Haley, Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes and the like.

Local media was quick to pick up on this announcement to shout ‘180 jobs coming to Horry County’ without the qualifying ‘we hope’ that this type of deal requires.

We’ve heard this type of fanfare before – do you hear AvCraft and PTR Industries among others? I do.

It’s only four short years since we heard the last “It’s a great day in Horry County” when the last AvCraft deal was announced by many of these same players.

The initial reaction I heard from several callers who contacted me was, “Is this AvCraft 2.0?”

On the surface it sounds a lot like it. A small Arizona company plans to open an aviation maintenance and repair facility (MRO) at Myrtle Beach International.

It promises to provide 180 new jobs to the area over a five year period. For that promise, Horry County and the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority is providing a total of $250,000 in incentives (read cash payments).

According to sources familiar with the deal, the payment of the $250,000 will be phased over the five year period of the agreement and will depend on Kingman meeting targeted employment levels along the way.

Kingman will be leasing one of the former AvCraft hangars from Horry County Department of Airports. I do not know the rental amount. However, I have been assured by several county officials familiar with the discussions that the rent will be in line with market value and more than AvCraft paid.

In addition, Horry County will be spending an estimated $100,000 to repair the fire suppression system in the hangar and to repair the hangar doors.

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Council to Hear SkyDive Myrtle Beach Officials

July 5, 2016 4:36 AM
Council to Hear SkyDive Myrtle Beach Officials

SkyDive Myrtle Beach officials will address Horry County Council next week in an attempt to make members aware of the many inconsistencies in Horry County Department of Airports claims that were used as an excuse to close down that business at Grand Strand Airport.

The case for closure of SkyDive Myrtle Beach by Horry County is built around 112 alleged safety violations by the business, none of which are safety violations or violations of any other kind, according to FAA regulations.

Nevertheless, Horry County officials made what appear to be false claims to the FAA and the FAA, relying on the integrity of Horry County officials went along with the farce.

A preview of the address was sent to members of council and other Horry County officials by SkyDive Myrtle Beach last week.

Two statements at the beginning of the address tell the story:

“The County has attempted to style complaints in email only to the FAA, in order to have the FAA believe that something very dangerous is occurring at CRE.” (CRE is the FAA designation for Grand Strand Airport.)

And

“Not one FAA official has actually examined this process and the Director’s Decision was erroneously written, relying on the fact that the County was acting in good faith and being truthful, which they have never done in this case. You continually deny my due process with the Department of Airports, by denying my hearing before the Department, which is mandated in the County’s illegal Minimum Standards.”

In other words, the county is up to its old tricks of assuming ‘the law doesn’t apply in Horry County or, if it does, interpreting the law any way the county desires to justify its actions.’

The county depends on its deep pool of taxpayer dollars as a reserve to defend lawsuits brought by those same taxpayers attempting to seek justice.

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Committee Guarantees Independent Horry County Police Department

June 27, 2016 10:30 AM
Committee Guarantees Independent Horry County Police Department

In a neatly orchestrated discussion to reach a predetermined conclusion, the Horry County Public Safety Committee determined an independent Horry County Police Department would remain the rule in the county.

Said in a slightly different way, there will be no opportunity for the voters to express themselves through a referendum on whether to merge the police department with the Horry County Sheriff’s Department because council is unwilling to give them the opportunity.

Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti told the committee it would require a three reading ordinance of council followed by a binding voter referendum to merge the departments.

Carotti said the ordinance had to be passed by August 15, 2016 in order to appear on the November 2016 general election ballot. Carotti said there was only one meeting of Horry County Council before the August date and special called meetings of council were only intended to address urgent issues between council meetings.

Obviously, there is no urgency on the part of council to allow the voters the opportunity to vote on the issue of a merger.

Carotti said low voter turnout consistent with special elections, the other possible alternative for a referendum, would not give a fair representation of the wishes of voters on the issue.

By that logic, there should not be any primary elections nor special elections for vacant offices because the wishes of the voters are not fairly represented by the 10 percent or less of voters who turn up at the polls to vote in them.

You can see this is not an issue that council is willing to take to the voters and this little dog and pony show was carefully designed to avoid that possibility.

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Remembering Horry County Council Past Decisions

June 22, 2016 3:40 AM
Remembering Horry County Council Past Decisions

A small agenda item for Tuesday’s Horry County Council meeting brought reminders of how special interests and ego often combine to replace common sense in the public decision making process.

The item was second reading of an ordinance to make a slight adjustment to the Multi County Business Park ordinance of 1999 as amended in 2000.

Under consideration was abandonment by Horry County of the last several years of an exclusive option to purchase land from Burroughs and Chapin near the Myrtle Beach International Airport.

On the surface it seems like a fairly innocuous item.

Until we remember the MCBP was essentially a $79 million giveaway to B&C for basically nothing in return for the county. It was the most contentious issue of its day, passed three readings by a slim majority, and, within the next few years, 10 members of council either left office or were defeated at the ballot box.

The MCBP ordinance was the ultimate example of local elected officials bowing to the demands of special interests at the expense of ordinary voters and it cost many of them their elected position.

The piece of land in question was needed for construction of a second runway at Myrtle Beach International.

The second runway concept was part of an airport plan of the early 2000’s that included a $500 million airport terminal on the west side of the runways. This was a time when council egos envisioned MBIA as a major gateway airport for national and international tourists that were going to flock to Myrtle Beach.

The concept was absolutely ridiculous and a pure flight of fancy (ego) on the part of a majority of county council for several years until the entire plan fell victim to its own faults.

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Council Against Horry County Sheriff Merger

June 17, 2016 10:03 AM
Council Against Horry County Sheriff Merger

If the decision is left up to the politicians, the Horry County Sheriff merger with the Horry County Police Department won’t happen.

Horry County Council is building a case that it’s too costly and they don’t know who the next sheriff will be.

Restated the case is: the same voters who elected current council members aren’t to be trusted when it comes to electing a sheriff.

The county is also pointing to an approximately $650k price tag to repaint and remark the vehicles and buy such things as new badges and uniforms to replace the current HCPD stock.

I have a quick suggestion. The $650k is approximately the same price as the proposed new mobile command center county council and HCPD want to purchase. Quit with the Inspector Gadget mentality and the money is found.

The amount of public money Horry County Council and HCPD have wasted on gadgets and radios over the last 15 years is abominable. These are two groups who should never use spending public dollars as an excuse not to do something that makes sense, considering the number of things they have spent public money on that do not make sense.

The real issue, however, is what can be done to eliminate the culture of corruption that has existed in HCPD ranks, especially command ranks, over the last two or so decades.

Obviously hiring a new chief is not the answer. Four new chiefs have been hired over that period (two internal, two external) with little to no change.

The decision on whether or not to merge the Sheriff’s department with HCPD is one that the people should decide in a referendum.

And, the argument that we don’t know who will follow our current sheriff Phillip Thompson is bogus. We don’t know who is going to succeed our current council members either.

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