Post Tagged with: "Horry County"

Changing Focus on the County Budget Process

December 10, 2018 9:21 AM
Changing Focus on the County Budget Process

Horry County began its budget process for Fiscal Year 2020 with its fall planning retreat November 28th.

This was the beginning of what could prove to be a very interesting budget year.

Incoming council chairman Johnny Gardner pledged on the campaign trail, “Public Safety Priority One Day One” as his approach to the county budget process.

County staff heard a portion of that message. The early budget outline includes an additional approximately eight million dollars for public safety. That addition is based on what staff believes can be used from excess hospitality fee revenues after Ride I bonds are paid off early in 2019.

However, despite a county council resolution to use approximately $18 million from those revenues toward public safety, infrastructure and areas like recreation, staff has held firm to the $8 million it proposed last July.

Additionally, council directed staff to prepare an ordinance amending current county code pertaining to the funds received from what is known as the 1.5% portion of hospitality fee revenue that currently goes to pay off the Ride I bonds. Currently all of that revenue is deposited in a special road fund per county code.

To date, staff has not presented an ordinance amendment to change that designation to include public safety, infrastructure, recreation and the like.

This avoidance of acting on a resolution designating the will of council can only be attributed to at least certain members of county senior staff continuing to desire that all of the Ride I 1.5% money go to I-73, which was initially proposed to council.

Therein lies the basic contradiction in the county budget process – council directs, but staff does what it wants to.

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Horry County Voters Send Message on Impact Fees, Representation to County Council

November 7, 2018 10:35 AM
Horry County Voters Send Message on Impact Fees, Representation to County Council

Horry County voters resoundingly supported the concept of having new construction pay for the improvements in county goods and services it requires on a referendum question Tuesday night.

Asked whether they supported imposing impact fees on new development, 74,904 voters out of the 103,186 answering the question, said YES.

The question was asked as an advisory referendum, which means it is non-binding and only an expression of voter will. However, when such an overwhelming majority of voters supports an issue, elected officials would do well to hear the message being sent.

State law currently includes language for imposing impact fees, but the legislation is so restrictive as to make it generally useless to a local government.

In the past, Horry County’s legislative delegation has been responsible for much of that language and has generally listened to the wishes of the real estate and development lobby at the expense of average citizens.

Many of these legislators have been given a ‘free pass’ in elections with little or no opposition to their holding office. It is time for that to change.

Results from Horry County Council contests in this election cycle provide an interesting view of what may be to come when solid challengers take on incumbents.

There were two contested Republican primaries with challenger Johnny Gardner defeating incumbent Mark Lazarus by 111 votes for the council chairman nomination. Gardner was unopposed in last night’s general election and will take office in January 2019.

Incumbent Bill Howard squeaked by challenger Dean Pappas by 33 votes in the other contested primary to barely hold onto his Council District Two seat.

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Have Your Vote Counted November 6th

October 28, 2018 8:12 AM
Have Your Vote Counted November 6th

A little over a week remains until the November 6th general election and several thousand absentee ballots have already been cast in Horry County.

Horry County voters began a movement of change in the June Republican primaries for Horry County Council Chairman and S.C. House District 104 by nominating Johnny Gardner and William Bailey respectively.

The same happened in a special July Republican primary for Horry County School Board Chairman with businessman Ken Richardson coming out on top.

All three were successful because they connected with average citizens.

Throughout his campaign Gardner spoke of putting “Public Safety Priority One Day One” and charging fees on new development to help pay for the impact it causes on county goods and services, both issues that resonated with the general populace.

Gardner will look to fully staff all categories of first responders so that citizens will have the protection of persons and property that they expect. This has been an area ignored by county government for too long.

Bailey promised to stop tax hikes and reduce government spending at the state level, end corruption and demand transparency in government and give first responders the tools they need to protect our homes and families.

One of Bailey’s goals will be to bring more tax dollars generated in Horry County back to the residents. Horry County has been a donor county to other areas of the state for years and our current legislative delegation has done little to change the situation.

Richardson described his “passion for education” and his intention to manage the school budget to avoid tax increases.

Richardson will look to change the governance policy of the school district so that the elected Board of Education sets policy with the appointed staff carrying out the board’s policies rather than determining their own.

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County Drops Ball on Mosquito Control – Updated

September 27, 2018 4:25 AM
County Drops Ball on Mosquito Control – Updated

It has been nearly two weeks since Hurricane Florence dumped record amounts of rain on Horry County and, to date, no meaningful attempts have been made by county officials to combat the resulting mosquitoes.

It’s not like all the water that Florence dumped on the area was a big surprise. For at least a week before the storm made landfall, predictions of 20 plus inches of rain throughout the county were the norm.

Yet, the county remained unprepared to combat the intense breeding of mosquitoes that accompanies the rain and continued flooding we have experienced since the storm.

According to two sources with knowledge of the county’s mosquito spraying program, as late as yesterday there were only enough chemicals on hand to spray five percent (5%) of the total acreage in Horry County. Those sources said an order for more chemicals was recently placed, but when the county receives that order it will cover only 40-50 percent of total county acreage.

It’s not like the county does not have the money to pay for more chemicals. According to information provided to GSD, the county maintains a $30 million contingency fund expressly for expenses associated with disaster recovery.

And, money the county spends for things like mosquito spraying resulting from a declared state of emergency situation is recoverable from FEMA. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper ordered $4 million from state funds to pay for mosquito spraying in the 27 North Carolina counties affected by Hurricane Florence. 

In addition, the county’s efforts at stormwater management have been lacking as we have seen from the number of sub-divisions and other areas that routinely flood during heavy rains. Did those responsible for stormwater management imagine we wouldn’t suffer serious flooding in many areas from Florence? The stormwater management department of the county is also responsible and funded for mosquito spraying, but it has chosen to spend funds on items other than mosquito control chemicals and spraying in the past few years.

According to several county council members I have spoken to, complaints are pouring in from citizens about the growing mosquito population in all areas of the county. Citizens are questioning why the county isn’t already conducting aerial spraying to combat the increasing mosquito hoard.

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Skydive Owners Lawsuits Against Horry County Consolidated

September 5, 2018 5:29 PM
Skydive Owners Lawsuits Against Horry County Consolidated

The eleven tort claims lawsuits against Horry County et al. filed by former owners and employees of Skydive Myrtle Beach have been consolidated into one tort claim case with eleven plaintiffs per a judge’s order granting consolidation filed on August 31, 2018.

Originally filed Pro Se, the 11 owners have joined together to hire attorney Robert Varnado. Varnado will be filing an amended complaint consolidating the claims against Horry County, Horry County Department of Airports, various county officials and employees and Robinson Aviation, the contract operator of the control tower at Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach.

The Federal Aviation Administration was removed as a defendant previously.

The basic claims of the complaint are conspiracy among the defendants to deprive the respective owners of Constitutional rights with respect to 14thAmendment and due process protections, for interference with the business Skydive Myrtle Beach (SDMB), and with contractual ties between SDMB and HCDA in order to illegally shutdown SDMB.

In early 2014, shortly after Skydive Myrtle Beach reported to the FAA of discriminatory actions against it by the Horry County Department of Airports, the HCDA began circulating stories about alleged safety violations committed by Skydive Myrtle Beach while it was operating out of Grand Strand Airport.

In October 2015, Horry County government ultimately evicted Skydive Myrtle Beach from Grand Strand Airport using a 73 page FAA Director’s Determination as justification. Much of the Director’s Determination report was based on 112 safety violations allegedly committed by SDMB.

Neither the county nor the FAA has documented evidence of any investigation or finding of safety violations by Skydive Myrtle Beach, according to responses to Freedom of Information Act requests filed with both the county and the FAA.

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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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Gardner Public Reading of Declaration of Independence Tomorrow

July 2, 2018 6:30 AM
Gardner Public Reading of Declaration of Independence Tomorrow

Conway attorney Johnny Gardner will read the Declaration of Independence from the steps of the Old Courthouse in Conway Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.

The public reading of the Declaration of Independence by criminal defense attorneys was begun in Houston, Texas eight years ago by attorney Robert Fickman. It has caught on throughout the state since that first reading.

“The Declaration of Independence is our country’s most revered symbol of a nation’s stand against the illegal and immoral depredations of the crown against our citizens,” Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association representatives said in a news release. “These readings are our reminder to all in the criminal justice system that abuses of power will be exposed and fought by members of the defense bar.”

Gardner, the recent winner of the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman, liked the concept so much he decided to bring the tradition to Horry County.

“When I read about what the Texas attorneys were doing, I thought it was a great idea to bring to Horry County,” Gardner said.

The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of what has become the United States of America.

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution to the Continental Congress that Congress should declare the United Colonies free and independent states.

Congress adjourned on June 11, 1776, after voting to postpone consideration of Lee’s resolution until it reconvened in three weeks.  A Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement to the world, in the three week interim, presenting the colonies’ case for independence.

On July 2, 1776, the Congress adopted Lee’s resolution by a vote of 12-0 with New York abstaining. Two days later, Congress adopted an edited version of the statement, which became known as the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams considered July 2, 1776 as the birthday of America. It became July 4th because that was the day the adopted Declaration was read out to the public.

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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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County Continues to Kick the Can Down the Road

May 30, 2018 8:41 AM
County Continues to Kick the Can Down the Road

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the editorial cartoon published by local cartoonist Ed Wilson on Facebook yesterday (pictured above) is worth an entire book.

The strokes of Wilson’s pen starkly captured the central problem with county government today. Serious issues (cans) have been kicked down the road for too long without being addressed.

The county’s public safety departments have suffered systemic problems from being ignored for too long.

Long hours, low pay and reduced benefits have led to low morale and high turnover resulting in understaffed public safety departments while the county population continues to grow creating ever larger demands for services.

There are many situations in which new personnel are paid almost as much, in some cases more, than officers with five plus years of experience. Even so, high turnover in the first few years of employment keeps the departments short of trained, experienced personnel.

According to many sources, the officers who provide our everyday safety needs are warned not to speak out publicly about issues within the departments or face reprisals.

The entire approach to public safety can be compared to sticking multiple fingers in a dike to, hopefully, hold off a deluge while continuing to turn a blind eye to attempting to plan a fix that would bring the departments to a more secure footing.

And public safety problems are not the only ones that have been ignored.

The heavy rains over the weekend caused considerable flooding in relatively new developments along Hwy 905 – again.

This seems to be a perfect example of allowing developers to rezone plots of land for residential housing, build and sell the houses quickly and get out with their profits before inherent problems in the area become known.

Even if rezoning requests were well researched and developed by county staff and council members, the pace of growth we are now again experiencing lets development seriously outpace the county’s ability to provide needed infrastructure and services to the new residents.

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Horry County Infrastructure Myths and Facts

May 14, 2018 3:23 AM
Horry County Infrastructure Myths and Facts

Infrastructure, especially roads, is on many minds as campaigning moves to the June 12, 2018 primary elections.

Some questionnaires being sent to candidates for various council seats include one or more questions about infrastructure planning.

Four years ago, Mark Lazarus promised voters he would “Fight for greater investment in new and current roads.”

In some of his early campaign statements this time around, Lazarus has pointed to the Ride III initiative and International Drive as personal successes.

This is misleading.

Council has little to do with the Ride projects. A prioritized list is presented from an independent committee to council on which it votes up or down for the entire list. Council may not make any deletions or additions. If council approves the list, and it always does, the citizens vote on a referendum question whether to adopt a one-cent sales tax to fund the Ride program.

As far as International Drive is concerned, if any current member of council deserves credit for keeping the issue moving toward completion it is Johnny Vaught. It was Vaught’s uncle, retired Lt. Gen. James Vaught, who initially addressed the need for International Drive and continued to push for the project from the early 2000’s until his death in September 2013. I can still hear Vaught addressing council several times on the importance of International Drive always ending with “Get it done.”

After Johnny Vaught was elected to council in November 2014, he picked up where his uncle left off in seeing the project to completion next month.

A recent Facebook video on the Lazarus campaign page touts on to greater infrastructure as it pictures the Farrow Parkway interchange with U.S. 17 Bypass.

This is an unfortunate choice of roads to feature as it depicts one of the more outrageous projects the county has undertaken.

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