Post Tagged with: "Horry County"

SkyDive Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Advances to Deposition Stage

September 8, 2020 4:26 AM
SkyDive Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Advances to Deposition Stage

After being delayed for six months due to Covid 19 restrictions, depositions in the lawsuit SkyDive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County et al will begin September 30, 2020.

The lawsuit evolved from the county shutting down operations of SDMB and evicting them from the North Myrtle Beach airport using a Director’s Report from the FAA in which 112 alleged safety violations played a large part in the FAA claiming SDMB operations at Grand Strand Airport were unsafe.

This is where things get tricky. The county used an informal means of reporting the alleged safety violations, a county generated form called an “Unusual Incident Report”.

When responding to a Freedom of Information Request for documentation associated with these reports, the county responded by sending the Unusual Incident Reports but no supporting documentation.

A short memorandum from county attorney Arrigo Carotti included with the FOIA response said, “These records are provided in an abundance of caution, in that each may or may not demonstrate violation by Skydive Myrtle Beach of Horry County Department of Airports Minimum Standards, as that assessment has not been undertaken.”

In other words, the county reported SDMB had committed 112 safety violations without ever investigating any, according to Carotti’s memo.

When a FOIA request for documentation on the 112 alleged safety violations was sent to the FAA, the response from Thomas A Winston, Manager Flight Standards Division, Southern Region of the FAA was, “You requested information regarding 112 allegations of safety violations used to make the table in the Director’s Report dated October 7, 2015 by Randall Fiertz. We searched our files maintained in the South Carolina Flight Standards District Office. We could not find any documents responsive to your request.”

The FAA had no documents supporting any of the 112 alleged safety violations. Anytime a suspected safety violation has taken place at an FAA regulated airport, a Mandatory Occurrence Report is supposed to be filed with the FAA and entered into the CEDAR (Comprehensive Electronic Data Analysis and Reporting) system. . No MORs were found in the FAA system with respect to the alleged violations by SDMB.

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The Incumbent Campaign of Misinformation and Desperation

June 7, 2020 11:21 AM
The Incumbent Campaign of Misinformation and Desperation

Misinformation and desperation are seeping into incumbent campaigns as we move toward primary voting Tuesday.

We have seen the SCGOP ignore campaign finance and ethics regulations to send numerous mailers supporting the reelection of Alan Clemmons and Heather Crawford.

Why would the SCGOP feel the need to insert itself into the contests between Republican candidates?

Obviously the party leaders in Columbia are afraid of losing two representatives who will do exactly what they are told to do.

Doing what they are told to do in Columbia doesn’t help the constituents Clemmons and Crawford are supposed to serve in Horry County. That’s why the panic.

In the past several days Clemmons and Luke Rankin have posted individual pictures of themselves with President Trump. Those were photo ops taken when the president was in Horry County during the Hurricane Florence flooding.

Both reportedly talked up the Interstate 73 project to the president during that trip. If Clemmons and Rankin are as close to President Trump as they would like you to believe, where are the federal dollars to build the interstate?

In similar fashion, one of the SCGOP mailers for Crawford and Clemmons touted an endorsement of them by the governor. Again, if they are so close to the governor and the legislative leaders in Columbia, for that matter, where are the state dollars to build I-73?

Clemmons has consistently stated I-73 is his number one priority as a legislator. Yet, year after year, no money comes from the state for the project.

Meanwhile Clemmons represents a declining Myrtle Beach that he appears to ignore as the number of empty commercial buildings in the city continues to rise every year.

One of the SCGOP mailers for Crawford attempted to present her as ‘working hard’ to solve the flooding problems in her district. She has done nothing other than clean out some ditches to help the citizens devastated by repeated flooding events since 2016 nor to mitigate future flooding. Again, no state grants have been forthcoming to help these needed initiatives.

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Voters’ Primary Choice – Representative Democracy or Oligarchy

April 15, 2020 7:09 AM
Voters’ Primary Choice – Representative Democracy or Oligarchy

Horry County voters will have distinct choices in a number of local and state primary races this year as challenges to incumbents continue to rise.

Those choices simply put are a decision by voters on whether they support candidates who represent the needs of the citizens or candidates who represent the oligarchy who wish to continue to control government for their own self-interest.

Eight weeks remain until primary election day for voters to make their choices.

For the past few weeks there has been talk that the primaries would be postponed until later in the summer. This does not appear to be the case as the majority of the General Assembly members believe holding the primaries in June will give them an advantage in the primaries as incumbents.

Last week, the General Assembly added an additional $15 million to the state contingency fund to help make voting “safer” for voters. So, it looks certain that June 9th is the date to vote in the primaries.

Campaigning directly with voters will be difficult as long as the current coronavirus restrictions remain in place. It will be important for voters to watch what is posted in social media and weigh the information being presented.

In general, it is my opinion that the candidates who will best represent voters against the fading but still influential power structure in the county are challengers, not incumbents. Not in every case, because a few incumbents have served the best interests of the county citizens, but in most cases.

Several S. C. House primaries come quickly to mind to illustrate the above points.

Case Brittain will provide a formidable challenge to 18 year incumbent Alan Clemmons in S. C. House District 107.

Clemmons is one of the elected officials the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce can always count on to do its bidding. There has been no louder voice than Clemmons for Interstate 73, a project that is years off and will immediately benefit only some of his donors in the local area. Then we have Clemmons’ many trips to the Middle East, funded by his campaign chest.

Brittain is a Horry County native and local attorney. He is tired of seeing Horry County be a donor county to other areas of the state, always an afterthought when it comes to state funding for schools, roads and the like. He wants to put the “Grand” back into the Grand Strand. It would be nice to have a representative from Myrtle Beach who worries more about the citizens in his district than the current one who spends more time with citizens of Israel and Egypt than those at home.

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Uneasy Lie the Heads that Wear Incumbency – First Week of Candidate Filing

March 24, 2020 7:15 AM
Uneasy Lie the Heads that Wear Incumbency – First Week of Candidate Filing

The coronavirus has not stopped this year’s candidate filing in Horry County from being the most active filing period in the county for many years.

Grand Strand Daily is tracking 22 local races for county offices or local representatives or senators to the General Assembly.

After the first week of filing, which ended yesterday, there are currently 13 contested races of the 22 being tracked and at least two more county council candidates will probably have opposition before filing closes next Monday. If the expected two challengers file in council districts 3 and 4, all five county council seats up for election in this cycle will be contested and all will be Republican primary contests.

One incumbent council member, Paul Prince in District 9, is retiring and four candidates, including Prince’s son, are contesting the Republican primary for that seat. The other four incumbent council members up for reelection are Cam Crawford and Danny Hardee, who already have opponents filed to challenge them and Dennis DiSabato and Gary Loftus, who are expected to have opponents by the end of filing.

The main reason county council is drawing so much attention is a feeling among voters that incumbent council members are only listening to the development community that funds their campaigns and voters’ concerns about flooding and rapid development are being ignored. (See the image at the end of this post, which has been making its way around Facebook, with the heads of the four incumbents inserted).

On the state level, voters are tired of being donors to the rest of the state while road and flooding problems in particular are not being addressed and most incumbents are content with sound bites and photo ops rather than trying to address solutions.

Four incumbents who, I believe, will face particularly serious challenges are state Reps. Alan Clemmons and Heather Ammons Crawford, Sen. Luke Rankin and county council member Cam Crawford. They are being opposed by Case Brittain, Mark Epps, John Gallman and Jeremy Halpin, respectively.

If the expected challengers emerge against DiSabato and Loftus, those races will be hotly contested also.

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Candidate Filing One Week Away, Silly Season Has Already Begun

March 9, 2020 6:09 AM
Candidate Filing One Week Away, Silly Season Has Already Begun

Filing for elective office in the county is one week away which will begin what can only be called the “silly season” when facts are few and far between.

However, in one race, the one for a new county Auditor, “silly season” began last August when local CPA Clark Parker announced his candidacy for the position of Auditor and his various pronouncements and posts since.

When Parker announced his campaign last August, he said he could “contribute a lot to the needs of the county” and that “it is important that we collect all our taxes that are due to the county.”

Shortly after his announcement, local media reported Parker was delinquent in paying personal property taxes for tax years 2012, 2017 and 2018. Those delinquent taxes were paid by Parker after the information became public.

Parker was reportedly taking campaign advice from a group of advisors. One or more of those convinced Parker to begin placing campaign yard signs. County ordinance forbids such campaign signs from being placed until 45 days before election voting. Election voting for the Republican primary is June 9, 2020. Signs cannot be placed until near the end of next month, but Parkers were out last fall.

A Facebook post encouraged supporters to take a picture with one of the signs. The best picture was supposed to be rewarded with free dinner for two at Rioz Brazilian steakhouse.

One of Parker’s campaign operatives, Johnny Fryar, was a guest on Talking Politics, hosted by John Bonsignor and myself. I notified Fryar of the illegal timing of the signs. He tried to argue the point with no knowledge of the ordinance. Sometime after the show, the campaign signs were removed.

Since that time, other Facebook posts on Parker’s campaign page have called him the “technology candidate” even though he does not understand what technology the county has and does not understand that county technology is not controlled by the Auditor.

He has also called himself the “2nd Amendment candidate” although I haven’t the slightest clue what the right to bear arms has to do with an office that prepares tax bills for the county. Nor does Parker.

This is a campaign with no message other than throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and hoping something sticks with voters.

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Gardner Names Special Flood Committee

February 25, 2020 4:21 PM
Gardner Names Special Flood Committee

Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner named a special committee during the county Infrastructure and Regulation Committee meeting Tuesday to study possible options for mitigating the flooding problems from which the county has consistently suffered since 2015.

Gardner appointed Harold Worley as chairman of the special committee with Al Allen, William Bailey, Kevin Hardee, April O’Leary, Alex Hyman, Nick Godwin, Forrest Beverly, Steve Gosnell and Gardner himself as committee members.

The committee brings together points of view from local and state elected officials, citizen and construction industry perspectives with county administrator Gosnell to provide technical expertise as a licensed professional engineer. The county’s Infrastructure and Regulation Division will provide staff support to the special committee.

 Gardner said he believed flooding was such a problem in the county that he decided to appoint a special committee to specifically focus on flooding issues and possible ways to mitigate the problem.

The special committee will report back recommendations for mitigation to the county I&R Committee who will discuss and vote whether to forward those recommendations to full county council for approval and action.

In other flooding related issues discussed at the I&R meeting, the county Storm Water Management Department told committee members that there are approximately 250 outstanding work orders dating to as far back as 2015. The committee was also presented with a list of budget enhancements for personnel and equipment totaling approximately $4.4 million that the department needed to clear the backlog and allow the department to meet current requirements.

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What Is Really Possible to Mitigate Storm Water Flooding

February 22, 2020 4:09 AM
What Is Really Possible to Mitigate Storm Water Flooding

Flooding has again taken center stage in the news in Horry County this week while government officials continue to search for solutions.

Horry County faces potential problems from two different types of flooding. Flash flooding from extremely heavy rainfalls over a short period of time and riverine flooding when a large amount of water makes its way through the watershed from North Carolina to below Georgetown before it exits to the ocean.

While the county storm water plan addresses ways to attempt to mitigate flash flooding, attempts to mitigate riverine flooding have been largely ignored.

Even the task force put together by Governor Henry McMaster after Hurricane Florence suggested little more than to recommend cleaning out ditches, planting some trees and searching for ways to buyout homes which have been damaged or destroyed by recent flooding events.

Since this is an election year, the flooding problem is now present in the political dialogue where it should have been continuous at least since Hurricane Florence in 2018.

Horry County District 6 council member Cam Crawford opened his reelection campaign by proposing a resolution for county council to consider that would urge the state legislature to pass a bill his wife, Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, is pushing in Columbia that would allow the county to borrow money from the state to provide local matching funds for buyouts of some flood affected homes.

Jeremy Halpin, Crawford’s primary opponent, said more is needed than just a bill for the county to borrow money. He proposed County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner appoint a Flooding Task Force subcommittee to propose, study and recommend a number of options to help the county mitigate flooding of both types.

Crawford responded by calling Halpin’s suggestion ‘political grandstanding’ and said he (Crawford) has been involved with the Governor’s Task Force working “since Hurricane Florence on research and meaningful solutions to flooding in our area.”

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State Legislation Would Not Solve Lawsuit or I-73 Funding

January 20, 2020 3:55 AM
State Legislation Would Not Solve Lawsuit or I-73 Funding

A bill being sponsored by four local state representatives is erroneously being promoted as legislation that would settle a lawsuit between Myrtle Beach and Horry County and provide funding for Interstate 73.

Nowhere in the original complaint or subsequent motions of that lawsuit, filed March 2019, is Interstate 73 mentioned.

The legislation, H4745, sponsored by Reps. Alan Clemmons, Russell Fry, Heather Ammons Crawford and Tim McGinnis would provide the extension of what is called a countywide ‘legacy hospitality fee’ as long the revenue derived from the countywide portion is used specifically to fund an interstate highway project.

When Myrtle Beach filed the original complaint last March, it specifically sought end collection of a 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within its corporate limits. Immediately after filing the lawsuit, Myrtle Beach city council passed new accommodations and hospitality fee taxes, allowed by current state law, to capture revenue from those levies for use on projects of council’s discretion within the city limits.

North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach quickly followed Myrtle Beach’s lead in passing new accommodations and hospitality taxes within their respective jurisdictions.

The day Myrtle Beach filed its lawsuit seeking to stop collection of the countywide hospitality fee, countywide funding for I-73 was dead.

A section of the original complaint filed by Myrtle Beach claims the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee, established by a 1996 county ordinance, was illegally extended by county council when a sunset provision was removed from the ordinance in April 2017.

County council voted to remove the sunset provision at the urging of then county chairman Mark Lazarus. It was Lazarus who introduced I-73 into the discussion by mentioning the I-73 project as one of the possible future uses of hospitality fee revenue.

A current proposed settlement for the lawsuit ends any authority of the county to continue countywide collection of the 1.5% hospitality fee and allows all the cities within the county to collect and use the revenue from their newly passed hospitality and accommodations taxes as their respective councils determine within their respective jurisdictions.

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Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Sealed Fate of Local I-73 Funding

December 26, 2019 7:24 AM
Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Sealed Fate of Local I-73 Funding

The day the City of Myrtle Beach filed suit against Horry County to end collection of the countywide hospitality fee, local funding for Interstate 73 was doomed.

This may not have been the intention of the lawsuit, but it was the inevitable result.

When Gov. Henry McMaster met with local leaders a couple of months ago encouraging them to find a way to maintain I-73 funding, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune told the governor the lawsuit was not about I-73.

She was right. The lawsuit was about stopping the county’s ability to keep collecting the countywide hospitality fee and keeping all revenue collected in the city for the city’s use.

What Bethune did not understand was stopping the countywide hospitality fee collection stopped the funding stream for I-73 as an unintended consequence. Myrtle Beach must take sole blame for this consequence.

A county resolution to settle the lawsuit last April provided one-third of the countywide hospitality fee revenue would go toward funding I-73. Bethune and the city rejected the offer immediately.

Horry County Council approved removing a sunset provision from its hospitality fee ordinance in May 2017. The intent at that time, as clearly stated by then council chairman Mark Lazarus, was to use the countywide hospitality fee revenue to fund I-73 construction in Horry County.

However, it wasn’t until February 2019 that RIDE I bonds were paid off (the original purpose of the hospitality fee). Myrtle Beach filed suit just a few weeks after claiming the fee collection by the county has been illegal since January 1, 2017.

The original county ordinance put a period of 20 years on collection of the fee, which ended on the above date. The ordinance was later amended to continue collections until RIDE I bonds were completely paid off.

It is clear from the initial complaint filed by Myrtle Beach that the city wants to keep all hospitality fee revenues collected within the city limits for uses determined by city council. One must wonder why the city waited until March 2019 to file suit against the county if the fee has indeed been illegal since January 2017 as the city claims.

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Horry County Legislative Delegation Hospitality Bill Will Not Serve County Citizens Interests

November 25, 2019 3:35 AM
Travis Bell Photographers

A bill to amend South Carolina law on hospitality tax, pre-filed November 20, 2019 by four members of the Horry County legislative delegation, will not serve the general interests of Horry County citizens if it ever becomes law.

The bill, H 4745, sponsored by Reps. Alan Clemmons, Heather Ammons Crawford, Russel Fry and Tim McGinnis, is specifically designed to collect approximately $43 million per year in hospitality fee revenue specifically for the Interstate 73 project.

The bill was pre-filed one day after Horry County Council voted unanimously to cancel its Financial Participation Agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The agreement would have funded I-73 at up to $25 million annually.4745 is an expansion on a bill, H. 4597, filed just before the legislative session for 2019 ended last May. H. 4597 was filed after the cities filed a lawsuit against the county to stop collection of the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within the limits of the respective municipalities in the county.

H 4745 is an expansion on a bill, H. 4597, filed just before the legislative session for 2019 ended last May. H. 4597 was filed after the cities filed a lawsuit against the county to stop collection of the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within the limits of the respective municipalities in the county.

Both bills are designed to allow Horry County to resume collecting the 1.5% ‘legacy’ hospitality fee. Horry County is the only county in the state that has continuously collected the 1.5% countywide ‘legacy’ hospitality fee until stopped by the lawsuit.

The need for the second bill appears to be that H. 4597 allows the 1.5% hospitality fee revenue to be used on all the tourism related purposes as defined in S.C. Code of Laws Section 6-1-730. Those purposes include police, fire, emergency medical services, roads, highways, streets and bridges and recreation facilities which are tourism related.

The second bill limits uses of the hospitality fee revenue to interstate infrastructure, interstate interchanges and roads that directly connect to an interstate until no viable interstate highway projects remaining in the county.

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