Post Tagged with: "Horry County"

Budget Time for Local Governments

March 21, 2017 1:02 PM
Budget Time for Local Governments

This week will see several local governments, particularly Myrtle Beach and Horry County, in budget workshops as next year’s revenue and spending is considered.

If you have never seen the local budget process in action, you should consider at least watching some of the workshop meetings on local cable television or live streaming on the internet.

After all, it’s your money they are spending and services for you they are supposed to be providing.

Much of the discussion will be on the agencies’ respective general funds. Those are the funds that pay for public safety, public works, administration and so forth.

For each agency, approximately 65% of general fund expenditures are for personnel pay and benefits.

However, the respective general funds are not the only budget areas that affect local citizens.

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority, which is a component unit of Horry County Government, is asking for a $7 per ton increase on the cost of dumping municipal solid waste (household garbage) at the Highway 90 landfill.

If county council approves a rise in the SWA MSW tipping fee, every household and business in the county will be paying more for garbage disposal.

The City of Myrtle Beach parking fees, which go to the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation and are currently helping fund the taking of businesses through the use of eminent domain, are a problem for all county residents.

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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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Road Maintenance Debate Could Affect Coast

February 7, 2017 5:36 AM
Travis Bell Photographers

An interesting debate on road maintenance funding appears to be forming in the SC General Assembly that could have ramifications for coastal Horry County.

Estimates in Columbia project the state needs over $1 billion annually of new revenue to fix and maintain the state’s crumbling road system.

A bill has been introduced to raise the gas tax by 10 cents over a period of five years, along with other fee increases on things like automobile registrations, automobile purchases and the like. That bill, if passed, is estimated to contribute approximately $600 million per year when fully implemented.

An increase in the gas tax gets the state about 50% toward its goal. How to get the rest of the way? Casino gambling at the coast with the tax and fee revenue generated going back to Columbia to fund road maintenance.

The desire for casino gambling has never left the minds of certain players along the Grand Strand.

In 2009, this group put its initial support behind Gresham Barrett in the governor’s race. Remember the $85,000 funneled to Barrett that was part of Coastal Kickback?

But Barrett lost to Nikki Haley and talk of casino gambling faded into the background. Now Haley is gone and new Gov. Henry McMaster is, reportedly, at least willing to listen to the arguments for signing a casino gambling bill if it passed by the General Assembly.

According to our sources, at five different local sites are being discussed for possible casinos: the old Myrtle Square Mall site, what is called the South Mixed Use District (part of the Municipal Improvement District being planned in Myrtle Beach), a site near the intersection of S.C. 22 and S.C. 31, a site on S.C. 9 and the former Hard Rock Park site.

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Work on International Drive Can Continue

January 21, 2017 5:52 AM
Work on International Drive Can Continue

A state appeals court yesterday lifted an order issued last month stopping construction work on International Drive.

This reversal means the county can continue work stopped last month after the appeals court issued an initial injunction halting construction. According to the Friday order, work on the road may continue with the exception of connecting it to adjacent properties until a final decision in the appeals court is reached.

This latest ruling continues a pattern that has evolved in the International Drive saga in both federal and state courts as well as other administrative rulings. The county wins a decision to go forward, the environmentalists find a new roadblock to stop progress until the next court ruling sides with the county’s arguments.

The environmental groups’ attorney Amy Armstrong was quoted in media outlets saying a reconsideration of this latest order would be sought.

The environmentalist strategy of delay, delay, delay has been successful in stopping or seriously altering projects many times through the years.

Just to see how it works, below is a capsule synopsis of the delaying tactics used against the International Drive project:

Seventeen years ago, the Horry County Solid Waste Authority board discussed using authority funds to pave International Drive as a means of reducing garbage truck traffic on SC 90.

The environmentalists were never heard from during these discussions.

When the project began being talked about seriously at the county level (in the early to mid-2000’s), SCDNR chief counsel Buford Mabry showed up at a county council meeting to talk about the project affecting a pair of red cockaded woodpeckers that were allegedly nesting near the proposed road bed.

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Local Reflections on 2016

December 22, 2016 5:14 AM
Local Reflections on 2016

Reflecting back on the year’s events in these last days of 2016, several local issues stand out that will carry over unresolved into the New Year.

The International Drive project is a perfect example of what many citizens find wrong in the country today. The project is highly popular with a vast majority of citizens because of the ‘back door’ ingress and egress it will give to Carolina Forest neighborhoods.

Horry County spent the year winning one court hearing after another over environmental groups trying to block the project. Some construction work was done in the fall after permits were issued by SCDHEC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

However, a temporary stay issued by a federal court, since removed, and now a stay against the permits issued by the state court of appeals leaves the project once again stalled awaiting further court dates.

I first rode with General Vaught in his four wheel truck on what is now called International Drive when it was nothing more than a dirt track through the woods. There is no vast environmental disaster waiting to happen if construction of International Drive is completed.

Nevertheless, a small group of environmentalists continues to thwart the wishes of a vast majority of the citizens while completion of a much needed road continues to be delayed.

Staying with the county, much needed changes in the Horry County Police Department have begun with the hiring of a new chief in the fall.

After a year in which the county and its police department was hit with a series of lawsuits over the conduct of officers, notably those in the detective division, over a series of years, hopefully those transgressions will be ending.

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Public Corruption and Southern Holdings

December 18, 2016 8:00 AM
Public Corruption and Southern Holdings

Public corruption is a hot topic today with politicians making illegal deals and other powerful interests using their influence to evade the law.

Too often the courts are also included in the process providing the final piece to the public corruption puzzle.

When this happens, the entire fabric of American society is torn and it’s difficult to see how it can be fixed.

Such is the story of the case of Southern Holdings et al v. Horry County et al.

In the Spring of the year 2000, Southern Holdings was a nice little corporation valued at $20 million, by independent analysts, doing business in South Carolina, North Carolina and Las Vegas, Nevada. It was owned by 75 shareholders, some of whom were residents of Horry County, with varying stock positions.

The corporation had recently gained the rights to contracts to be the exclusive marketer of cigarettes in areas of South America along with the rights to an offshore bank license and other contracts. The total value of these contracts and rights was $12-$15 million, according to corporate records.

After Southern Holdings gained the rights to these contracts, former Southern Holdings shareholder Ancil B. Garvin, III, a resident of Horry County at the time, attempted to get Southern Holdings President James Spencer to cut the remaining shareholders out of the profits.

What Spencer didn’t know then was that Garvin was selling cigarettes in the black market as well as with legitimate outlets.

In an e-mail from Garvin to Spencer in early May 2000, Garvin urged Spencer to agree to buy out the other stockholders. Garvin suggested he and Spencer could then “take the remaining $10 million of assets and retire.” Spencer refused.

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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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Time to Combat Community Violence

November 29, 2016 5:54 AM
Time to Combat Community Violence

Shootings over the last month in Myrtle Beach and the Longs area of Horry County again highlighted the need for a coordinated effort among police departments, other public agencies, community leaders and citizens to counter violence in our local communities.

In February 2016, local community activists went before Myrtle Beach City Council asking for help to combat violence in the community.

City officials responded by saying crime was down in the city and chastising the activists for “hurting tourism” with their claims of increasing violence in the city.

Since then, Myrtle Beach city officials have changed their tune. Meetings to address the rising heroin epidemic and recent shootings in the city have at least begun to acknowledge the problem of rising violence in community neighborhoods.

In a related incident, but one that may have ulterior motives, the city used a multiple shooting incident at the Pure Ultra Club in the area known as the “superblock” in downtown Myrtle Beach to add parking restrictions and business operating restrictions in that area.

However, the “superblock” moves may be part of a different initiative by city council.

In October 2015, Myrtle Beach City Council approved an ordinance effectively ending new clubs or bars from moving into the “superblock” area of the city.

At that time, council charged the Myrtle Beach Planning Commission to study zoning in the “superblock” area and come back to council with recommendations in January 2017.

A friend of mine said at that time, “They’re up to something,” referring to Myrtle Beach City Council.

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RIDE III and Horry County Voters

October 27, 2016 6:18 AM
RIDE III and Horry County Voters

Horry County voters will be asked to tax themselves for another seven years for what is known as RIDE III.

The referendum question will ask voters to approve an additional one-cent sales tax for seven years with the proceeds going to road projects.

When the Capital Projects Sales Tax legislation was initially approved by the SC General Assembly over 20 years ago, its goal was to provide a funding mechanism for the Conway Bypass Project, or what we now call S.C. 22.

A one-cent additional sales tax levied for seven years to pay for the county’s portion of the cost of construction of S.C. 22 wasn’t a bad idea. The projects now proposed are in the “nice to have”, instead of a justifiable “must have”, category.

But, a tax once levied is a difficult thing to do away with and creative ways were found to extend this taxing ability to other jurisdictions.

Since the initial RIDE I project constructed S.C. 22, politicians have found (manufactured?) justifications to ask voters to make this a recurring tax in Horry County.

The politicians found this was such an easy sale to the voters that RIDE II was added in 2006, a one-cent sales tax for school construction was added in 2008 and the one-cent sales tax for tourism advertising was added in Myrtle Beach in 2009.

Of course, the tourism tax was never subjected to a referendum by voters because that would probably have failed at the ballot box. Instead, our local legislative delegation and Myrtle Beach City Council conspired to have that tax approved by a super majority vote of city council.

In my opinion, we have reached the point where one-cent local option sales taxes are out of control in Horry County.

This is especially true in the case of the tourism tax where citizens are forced to pay increased taxes in order to reduce the marketing budgets of Myrtle Beach hoteliers and golf course owners.

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Southern Holdings SLED and FBI Coverup

October 19, 2016 5:08 AM
Southern Holdings SLED and FBI Coverup

“New evidence uncovered in documents released by SLED pursuant to a July 2015 Freedom of Information Act request point to the fact that HCPD and SLED never intended to provide the original videotapes to the plaintiffs regardless of court orders, subpoenas or any other legal documents.”

Videotapes of the illegal arrest of Southern Holdings president James Spencer were key pieces of evidence in the lawsuit against Horry County.

Where the original tapes of the arrest could be found were issues of question from the beginning of the case.

Finally, copies of the alleged original videotapes were sent to the plaintiffs (Southern Holdings, Spencer et al) expert analyst Steve Cain in March 2004.

Cain’s analysis gave strong indication that the tape copy he analyzed had been heavily edited. Cain submitted a three-page report in March 2004, to plaintiffs’ counsel in which he noted various anomalies that indicated editing of the tape.

“All of the above anomalies collectively cast serious doubt concerning the authenticity of portions of the original videotape from which this tape was reportedly manufactured by the Horry County Police Department,” read one section of Cain’s report.

Cain furthermore said he “strongly recommended” obtaining the original tape for examination and the original VCR that was used to produce the original tape (in order to confirm the editing, which would prove evidence tampering on the part of HCPD.)

After much court wrangling about the original videotapes, they were allegedly taken to Cain’s laboratory in Wisconsin by Defendants’ attorney Robert E. Lee on October 27, 2004, pursuant to Court Order 109, issued September 7, 2004, by Judge R. Bryan Harwell.

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