Post Tagged with: "Horry County"

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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Casino Gambling and the Grand Strand

April 10, 2017 5:00 AM
Casino Gambling and the Grand Strand

With another apparent demise of a gas tax bill in the SC Senate, the Grand Strand and casino gambling are again being talked about as a way to fund road maintenance around the state.

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.

Despite the fact that what we are hearing most about is another casino gambling bill being pushed by House Democratic leader Todd Rutherford, it only takes the signature of the governor on a compact with a Native American tribe to bring casino gambling into the state.

Neither the General Assembly nor local governments are part of the approval process, if this route is taken.

However, local governments would be important in the zoning and permitting processes and the General Assembly could be involved if gaming commission regulation was part of the compact deal and if the tax revenue is actually going to be dedicated to road funding.

A source within the local real estate industry told GSD last week that a land deal for a Grand Strand casino had been signed, but we have been unable to confirm with a second source to date.

Discussions between representatives of several tribes, potential developers and local and state elected officials are known to have been conducted several years ago.

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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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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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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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