Post Tagged with: "I-73"

Money for I-77, Where is Money for I-73?

June 18, 2020 8:15 PM
Money for I-77, Where is Money for I-73?

President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday June 18th about $34.6 million appropriated from the federal government for a new interchange on I-77 in Rock Hill.

Where is an appropriation for I-73?

Trump’s tweet again highlights the inability of our elected representatives, many of whom were reelected at last week’s primary, to get any funding for their supposed number one agenda item.

Tom Rice, Alan Clemmons, Heather Crawford, Luke Rankin, Russell Fry, Dennis Disabato, Cam Crawford, Gary Loftus, Johnny Vaught, Bill Howard, Tyler Servant, Brenda Bethune – aren’t you all embarrassed and ashamed of your continuing inability to secure any funding for I-73?

Over the past year, each and every one of you has spoken of the importance of I-73 to the local economy and to the safety of our citizens.

All this announcement does is demonstrate your political impotence, both individually and collectively, to deliver funding from any source other than Horry County for the project you list among your top priorities!

Five of the above, Clemmons, both Crawfords, Disabato and Loftus were victors in recent primaries, guaranteeing their reelection in November. Two others, Rice and Fry, had no primary opponent and will have a virtual walkover in November. Four, Vaught, Howard, Servant and Bethune, will face reelection over the next two years. The lone remaining incumbent, Rankin, faces a runoff election next week.

Whether it be money for I-73, flood mitigation, other infrastructure projects or other needs to help the citizens of Horry County, the ‘Dirty Dozen’ incumbents mentioned above can’t deliver.

Even the development industry, which spent tons of money helping the reelection of these people has to be let down at this announcement. After all, I-73 would net immediate revenue for some of those and it would open up considerable land in the western part of the county for development, even though much of it probably shouldn’t be developed due to flooding and infrastructure considerations.

Despite their continuing demonstrated inability to accomplish anything positive for the area, the voters chose to send those up for reelection last week back into office.

This announcement is just another example of why that was a bad idea.

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Weighing the Truth of Clemmons and Crawford Campaign Flyers

May 23, 2020 4:30 PM
Weighing the Truth of Clemmons and Crawford Campaign Flyers

The truth of explanations for the campaign flyers sent out supporting the candidacies of Alan Clemmons and Heather Ammons Crawford, marked “Paid for by the SCGOP” and “authorized by” the respective candidates, in the races for SC House District 107 and SC House District 68 respectively, have been “weighed on the scales and found wanting”, as the Book of Daniel would say.

There have been three mailers each supporting Clemmons and Crawford marked “Paid for by the SCGOP” and “authorized by” the respective candidate. There must have been some polling showing both Clemmons and Crawford trailing their challengers for the SCGOP to take such blatant, biased actions in a primary election.

The Horry County Republican Party Bylaws specifically prohibit such action by party officials, ” Bylaws Section 1-A. Elected and appointed officials of the Horry County Republican party shall not endorse, work for, assist, or allow their name to be used in support of a Republican candidate who has opposition from another Republican candidate during a Primary or Run-off election.”

There is a very good reason for this prohibition. Primary elections are run by the parties. If an election challenge is made, it is heard by the Executive Committee of either the local or state party, depending on what office is involved.

In the case of Clemmons and Crawford, if the results of their elections are challenged, the challenge must, by law, be heard by the SCGOP Executive Committee, the same group that would have had to approve the sending of the mailers. How could there possibly be an impartial judgement from that committee considering they have already chosen their preferred winner?

I contacted the state party by email over two weeks ago asking why the SCGOP was involving itself in primary elections and who approved sending the mailers. To date, I have received no response.

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Citizens or Special Interests – County Council Direction Will be Decided by June Primaries

April 20, 2020 7:33 AM
Citizens or Special Interests – County Council Direction Will be Decided by June Primaries

The direction county council will take over the next several years will likely be determined by three contested races in the Republican Primary to be held on June 9, 2020.

Those three races are Horry County Districts 3, 4 and 6, currently held by incumbents Dennis DiSabato, Gary Loftus and Cam Crawford, respectively. Those three council members have consistently been stooges for the special interests in the county.

DiSabato, Loftus and Crawford were consistent “yes” votes for any initiative former council chairman Mark Lazarus brought to the table. The purchase of approximately 3,700 acres of wetlands off of International for $12 million of taxpayer money is one example that quickly comes to mind.

The parcel purchased by the county was part of a larger parcel purchased by a developer in Virginia years ago. The wetlands couldn’t be developed so the county purchased the land with the purported goal of establishing a wetland mitigation bank to be used when capital projects required mitigation credits for disturbing wetlands. No other parcel in the county was considered, no record of a request for proposals was sent out by the county.

The three stooges voted in lockstep to spend county money for land that was basically useless to the developer for the price of approximately $3,243 per acre.

After Lazarus was defeated for reelection, DiSabato, Crawford and Loftus were charter members for what I dubbed the Deep Six, council members who fought long and hard to keep former county administrator Chris Eldridge in office after Eldridge and county attorney Arrigo Carotti lodged groundless accusations of extortion against current chairman Johnny Gardner, who defeated Lazarus, Eldridge’s strongest supporter on council.

Anyone who watched the March 2019 special council meeting, called to remove Eldridge, will recall DiSabato launching into accusations against Gardner after an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) concluded the accusations were without any merit.

The three stooges voted not to fire Eldridge in March, ultimately costing the taxpayers of Horry County $350,000 when council voted to buy out Eldridge’s contract in April 2019 rather than firing him one month before.

DiSabato, Crawford and Loftus have been consistent supporters of having county taxpayers fund construction of Interstate 73. Constructing I-73 remains a major goal of special interests in the county who will benefit financially from construction of the road.

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Filing for Elected Office Begins in Two Weeks, Trouble for Incumbents?

March 2, 2020 10:33 AM
Filing for Elected Office Begins in Two Weeks, Trouble for Incumbents?

In two weeks candidate filing for the 2020 election cycle for state and local offices will begin.

Candidate filing begins at noon March 16, 2020. The local primary elections will be held June 9, 2020 with the winners of the primaries going on to the November 3, 2020 general election.

All seats in the General Assembly will be up for election, both House and Senate. Locally, five county council seats and five school board seats will be contested as well as the county wide offices of Sheriff, Treasurer, Auditor, Clerk of Courts, Probate Judge, Solicitor and Coroner.

In a one party county and state such as Horry and South Carolina, the primaries are where the real action will take place.

An anti-incumbent trend against elected officials in legislative positions was prevalent in the 2018 elections. Three out of four incumbents for either county council or the S.C. House of Representatives who were challenged by new candidates lost their seats. The fourth managed to squeak back into office by a margin of 31 votes.

There is no reason to expect that trend won’t continue in this election cycle.

Flooding resulting from what is seen by the voters as uncontrolled development in the county is a top issue with voters. One only has to see the “Tired of Flooding, Vote Them Out” signs along county roads to understand incumbents are in trouble with voters.

The lack of maintenance and enhancement of existing infrastructure while new projects such as Interstate 73 are pushed by legislators is seen as another significant problem for incumbents.

And the eternal question in the county of who or what influences incumbents when they cast their votes will be up for interpretation by voters. Do the incumbents vote for issues pushed by developers, the Chamber of Commerce and other special interests who fund their campaigns or do they consider what is in the best interests of the citizens they represent when voting?

The answer to that question may decide a number of races in June depending on how many incumbents are challenged.

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I-73 Funding Remains Roadblock to Hospitality Fee Lawsuit Settlement

December 19, 2019 3:37 AM
I-73 Funding Remains Roadblock to Hospitality Fee Lawsuit Settlement

The question of funding Interstate 73 is the obstacle preventing settlement of the hospitality fee lawsuit brought by Myrtle Beach against Horry County earlier this year.

A proposed settlement agreement that was voted on Monday by the councils of North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Aynor and Atlantic Beach as well as Horry County Council included a provision that one-third of the proceeds from a continuation of the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee collected by Horry County would be dedicated to funding I-73.

The five municipalities voting approved the agreement. Horry County amended the agreement, which necessitates a reconsideration by the five municipalities. Conway and Loris did not vote.  

City of Conway officials said in various media reports over the last day that they have no intention of voting on the amended settlement agreement to the hospitality fee lawsuit proposed by Horry County Council Monday night.

Properly looking out for the interests of its citizens, Conway City Council wants to reserve the right to use any hospitality fee revenue collected within its city limits to meet local needs in accordance with allowable uses of hospitality funds.

The refusal by Conway to vote on the agreement effectively kills the amended settlement agreement since one condition of the amendment was that the cities in the county, less Briarcliff Acres, must unanimously approve the amended agreement.

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune tried to take the high road when the county amended the agreement, but she can’t. It was Bethune who summarily dismissed the county’s offer to settle the dispute in early April, long before attorneys began racking up large bills to continue the lawsuit.

The exact same conditions the county proposed in April became the conditions for settlement voted on Monday night, including the I-73 funding.

Attorneys representing Myrtle Beach negotiated with attorneys representing Horry County with the other municipalities essentially left out of the negotiations. The settlement agreement was presented to those municipalities, essentially as a fait accompli. Conway and Loris chose not to accept and Horry County Council members chose to amend it.

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County Council Adds More Controversy to Hospitality Fee Settlement

December 17, 2019 5:55 PM
County Council Adds More Controversy to Hospitality Fee Settlement

Horry County Council approved an amended settlement agreement at its special meeting Monday night that added to the controversy regarding settling the hospitality fee lawsuit.

Council split 7-5 on votes to amend the settlement agreement and to approve the settlement agreement as amended. Those voting for the agreement were Johnny Vaught, Dennis DiSabato, Cam Crawford, Gary Loftis, Bill Howard, Tyler Servant and Orton Bellamy.

The Deep Six (Vaught, DiSabato, Crawford, Loftis, Servant and Howard) can always be counted on to support anything the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber and other special interests in the county want. Vaught is counting on that group to fund his run for chairman in two years while DiSabato, Crawford and Loftis expect significant donations from special interests to fund their upcoming reelection campaigns.

The special interests want I-73, they fall in line to keep it in play.

Voting against the settlement were Chairman Johnny Gardner, Harold Worley, Al Allen, Danny Hardee and Paul Prince.

As Worley said at the beginning of open debate on the question, the elephant in the room was I-73.

The settlement agreement as presented Monday night would provide approximately $14.5 million per year toward I-73. As Worley pointed out this amount is a drop in the bucket for a project that will require approximately $670 million to complete the road in Horry County, $1.3 billion to reach I-95 and over $2 billion for the total project to the North Carolina border in Marlboro County.

But the drop in the bucket is important to those landowners in Horry County who will benefit from right of way purchases for the road and the engineering and other businesses who will profit from the early design and site work for the project.

The federal and state governments will have to come in with significant money for the road to ever be completed but the local special interests can realize a significant income from the early work that can be paid for if the county contributes. Like always, it’s all about the money.

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Questions Surround Proposed Hospitality Fee Settlement Agreement

December 15, 2019 7:32 AM
Questions Surround Proposed Hospitality Fee Settlement Agreement

As Horry County and the municipal councils prepare to vote on a proposed settlement agreement for the Hospitality Fee lawsuit Monday night, many questions remain about what really has taken place behind closed doors since the lawsuit was filed last March.

According to sources familiar with the settlement agreement, the basic proposal approved in a resolution by Horry County Council at its April 2, 2019 regular meeting and publicly rejected by Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune within a few days thereafter is the agreement that will be voted on Monday night?

The basic terms of that proposal as it was offered in April and will be considered Monday night are as follows: a) Horry County will continue to collect a 1.5% Hospitality Fee countywide; b) one-third of that fee (0.5%) will go toward funding I-73; c) the remaining two-thirds (1%) will be remitted to the respective taxing jurisdictions (unincorporated county or city) in which it was collected; d) Revenues from the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee collected between the date bonds for Ride I projects were paid off (sometime in February 2019) and June 30, 2019 will be remitted in a lump sum to the respective taxing jurisdiction in which those revenues were collected.

Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner sent a letter to each of the city mayors proposing that settlement on April 3, 2019.

The county was prohibited from collecting the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within the city jurisdictions after June 30, 2019 by judge’s order. The sum collected within city jurisdictions between February 2019 and June 30, 2019 (currently held in escrow) and subject to lump sum payments back to the cities is approximately $19 million.

Why is a proposed settlement that was publicly and totally rejected by Bethune in April 2019 suddenly the terms for settlement? (See Gardner’s letter to the mayors and Bethune’s rejection letter at the links below)

The mayor’s main points of contention have not changed in the agreement to be voted on for approval Monday night: a) continued collection of the countywide hospitality fee is illegal; b) the city cannot delegate to the county the authority to control the disposition of revenues which are properly within the city’s authority to collect and manage and c) no benefit to city residents from that arrangement.

What has changed?

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County Administrator Applications Close While Vaught Continues Hijacking Attempt

June 6, 2019 3:30 AM
County Administrator Applications Close While Vaught Continues Hijacking Attempt

The application period for a new, permanent county administrator closed yesterday while council member Johnny Vaught continued his attempts to hijack the entire process in favor of interim administrator Steve Gosnell.

As recently as Tuesday, Vaught was maintaining that he had the votes of 9 – 10 council members to appoint Gosnell to the permanent position. This is before all applications were in, before the qualifications of any of the applicants were assessed and before any interviews were conducted to determine who might be the best person to lead the administration of Horry County Government going forward.

After former administrator Chris Eldridge and county attorney Arrigo Carotti failed in their attempt to discredit incoming chairman Johnny Gardner and it became obvious Eldridge had to go, Gosnell said at that time he didn’t even want the administrator job on an interim basis.

Ultimately, after Eldridge was separated from his county employment, Gosnell did accept the interim job but, with the provision he could return to his job as Infrastructure and Regulation Division head.

When the application process for the permanent position opened, Gosnell said he did not know that he would even apply.

Still, Vaught pursued his personal agenda to keep Gosnell in place. But, Vaught’s personal agenda is not what the county needs at this time.

Gosnell is a nice man and has been a good county engineer. However, with only two years to go until retirement and having served in the senior staff of the failed Eldridge administration, he is not what is needed for the county to move forward to realize its potential.

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County Council Ends Eldridge Nightmare

April 17, 2019 6:34 AM
County Council Ends Eldridge Nightmare

The nightmare that has been the reign of county administrator Chris Eldridge ended Tuesday night when county council approved a termination package to end Eldridge’s employment.

The specific details of Eldridge’s package were not announced. However, it is believed to be in the neighborhood of one year salary, benefits and allowances or approximately $300,000 cost to the county.

And it is worth every penny to get rid of a poisonous influence at the top of county government who was unilaterally despised by county employees; who often confused his role as one of being in the middle of making policy rather than carrying out the decisions of others and who quite unsuccessfully attempted to disgrace current council chairman Johnny Gardner even before Gardner took office.

The vote was 9-2 to end Eldridge’s tenure, with council members Bill Howard and Tyler Servant the odd men out. Gardner did not vote as he participated in the negotiations of the package with Eldridge’s attorney.

Howard’s no vote was for reasons apparently only he can understand. Servant tried to play his ‘guardian of the people’s money’ schtick because of the size of the settlement, never considering how much more it would have cost the county in poor management and personnel decisions to keep Eldridge in place.

Immediately prior to the vote on Eldridge, council voted to defer cancellation of a Financial Participation Agreement with SCDOT for funding of I-73 while “aggressively pursuing” defense of the lawsuit recently brought against the county by Myrtle Beach over hospitality fee collections.

Among other pleadings in the lawsuit, the city requested a permanent injunctions against the county’s ability to collect a countywide 1.5% hospitality fee for its special road fund. A portion of that fund was to be used to fund the agreement with SCDOT.

In addition to the lawsuit, three cities, Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach and North Myrtle Beach have moved on to pass ordinances capturing all hospitality and accommodations fees collected within their corporate limits.

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Myrtle Beach Rejects Open Talks on Hospitality Fees

April 14, 2019 10:59 AM
Myrtle Beach Rejects Open Talks on Hospitality Fees

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune sent a letter to Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner last week rejecting public negotiations on a county plan for splitting hospitality fees.

Myrtle Beach wanted to hold any negotiations in secret using a lawsuit the city filed against the county last month over hospitality fee collection as the excuse for needing to keep discussions behind closed doors.

However, anyone who has followed local politics for even a short while understands the proclivity of local governments to conduct as much real discussion of issues as possible out of public view.

There is a very good reason for this. Often, the genesis of the issues kept most secret comes not from local elected officials, but rather from the special interests who have the ear of the politicians and who have been very effective through the decades pushing agendas that most benefit those interests.

The current hospitality fee issue dates back at least three years to the beginning of 2016. At that time, the projects funded by the Ride II tax were coming to completion. The hospitality and real estate interests began pushing the need for a Ride III referendum.

Informal talks between special interest leaders and local politicians developed a plan to promote passage of a Ride III referendum as well as continuation of hospitality fee collections countywide to fund I-73 construction within Horry County.

The special one-cent sales tax approved with Ride II and Ride III referendums pay for many projects that improve roads within the county that have become congested with traffic from new developments. These costs should be paid for directly by developers or impact fees rather than all the citizens of the county, but the hospitality and real estate lobbies have been able to avoid this to date.

The Ride III referendum was passed by voters in November 2016. County council removed the sunset provision from hospitality fee ordinance in the spring of 2017 at the behest of Lazarus, county administrator Chris Eldridge and county attorney Arrigo Carotti.

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