Post Tagged with: "infrastructure"

Challenger Hyman and Incumbent White Stand Out in Conway City Election

November 3, 2019 6:51 AM
Challenger Hyman and Incumbent White Stand Out in Conway City Election

Conway voters will go to the polls Tuesday to elect three members to city council.

Two incumbents, Larry White and Tom Anderson, are on the ballot with the third seat currently vacant guaranteeing at least one new council member.

Five challengers, Alex Hyman, Justin Jordan, Liz Gilland, Barb Eisenhardt and Randy Alford are seeking election.

Flooding will be on the minds of many voters thanks to the major storm events of recent years and memories going back to 1999 and Hurricane Floyd. What to do about new development in order to limit its effects on current homeowners is part of that discussion.

Two candidates stand out on the dual issues of flooding and development. Incumbent Larry White told local media recently he would seek better infrastructure for the city as well as working with developers about where and how much to build and limiting the effects of runoff from new developments onto existing properties.

Candidate Alex Hyman said smart development helps everyone. As a member of Conway’s Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Commission over the last eight years, Hyman has first-hand experience on issues of development around the city. He understands development is going to continue but it must be planned to complement what is already in place around the city.

Hyman has exhibited considerable knowledge and thought about the watershed in which Conway is located and some of the challenges and possible solutions to how flooding of recent years can be better managed.

Two things are certain, development is not going to be stopped, as candidate Barb Eisenhardt appears to be advocating, and riding on the backs of the Horry County Stormwater Department (Gilland), the Army Corps of Engineers and/or the South Carolina Department of Transportation (Anderson and Alford) to find flooding solutions are not the answer. Jordan advocates finding another way across the Waccamaw River as a solution to the traffic congestion experienced in last year’s flooding.

On a separate issue, Hyman advocates a two tier approach to improving the business opportunities in the city. He said the city should go to existing businesses with the question ‘what can council do to help you.’ For new businesses looking to relocate, Hyman would ask ‘what will you add to our business community.’

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County Council to Vote for Status Quo – UPDATED

July 9, 2019 5:11 AM
County Council to Vote for Status Quo – UPDATED

UPDATE

As predicted below, Horry County Council voted to award the administrator position to interim administrator and longtime county engineer Steve Gosnell, thereby opting for maintaining the status quo rather than bringing in someone new who may actually look for ways to fix some of the problems within the county.

Only council chairman Johnny Gardner voted for someone other than Gosnell, thereby keeping a campaign promise to strive for positive change in who county government really represents and works for.

Gosnell will essentially be a placeholder while he finishes his final 18 months to two years needed to qualify for full retirement. Council members who work for special interests rather than the interests of the general population in the county will find no staff roadblocks during Gosnell’s tenure.

It is not a coincidence that the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce introduced its new propaganda campaign supporting construction of Interstate 73 on the same day council voted for Gosnell.

County council member Harold Worley orchestrated the vote for Gosnell to be named administrator and this reporter has been told that Worley will lead the effort, albeit probably behind the scenes, to find county funding for I-73 even if it means a new tax on county residents.

The propaganda onslaught has just begun to convince county voters that funding I-73 is much more important than fixing current infrastructure problems; much more important than providing sufficient public safety staffing; much more important than managing runaway development and much more important than mitigating against future flooding.

Some of those mouthing such propaganda may even believe it, but the real motivating factor behind I-73 funding is the profits a relatively few local ‘good ole’ boys’ will realize from the project. To those ‘good ole’ boys’, Horry County residents are merely portable ATM machines from which to draw the tax dollars to provide the profits.
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Horry County to Consider Alternate Hospitality Fee Proposal

April 2, 2019 7:01 AM
Horry County to Consider Alternate Hospitality Fee Proposal

Horry County Council will consider a resolution at its regular meeting Tuesday night that provides an alternative strategy for hospitality fee collections and expenditures within the county.

This initiative is in response to the recent actions of Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach councils in passing ordinances to capture all hospitality fee revenue generated within their municipal borders in accordance with current state law.

The county’s proposal is to save the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee with $18 million of the proceeds dedicated to funding for I-73.

While the countywide proposal appears to raise in excess of $13 million more in revenue, the expenditure of $18 million toward I-73 would leave each city and the county with less actual revenue available to offset the ever increasing demands of offsetting costs of tourism to each entity.

By dedicating money specifically for I-73, the county’s proposal also falls short of addressing current needs for repair and improvements to U.S. 501, SC-22, SC-9, Hwy 90 and Hwy 905.

Both the county and the cities would see immediate benefits from addressing the needs of those five roadways as opposed to waiting years for completion of the portion of I-73 from I-95 at Dillon to Horry County.

Why should the citizens be told to ignore the needs of those roads before the next round of flooding hits the county, yet be excited about some future roadway that may or may not be built?

It is important to remember that neither the state government nor the federal government have appropriated any funds to construction of I-73.

There should be no rush by local governments to dedicate tax dollars to I-73 while the state and federal governments continue to provide none. The loudest proponents for I-73 funding are state Reps. Alan Clemmons, Russell Fry and Heather Ammons Crawford. At least they are the loudest in Horry County. It seems their voices become quite muted when they are in Columbia.

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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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Hospitality Fee Alternatives to I-73 Agreement

November 27, 2018 10:00 AM
Hospitality Fee Alternatives to I-73 Agreement

When Horry County Council debates signing a funding agreement with SCDOT for I-73 tomorrow, there are several alternatives that should be considered before a decision is made.

As Grand Strand Daily stated in a previous article, all of the hype for I-73 is located only in Horry County. It is a given that any money designated for the project will come from Horry County only for at least the next several years.

In early calendar year 2019, the county will begin to collect Hospitality Fee revenue in excess of that needed to pay off the bonds that funded Ride I. The proposal before council is to designate approximately $25 million of that money to I-73 with SCDOT generally in control of how that money is spent.

Rather than purchasing rights of way and doing engineering design for a brand new road that may never be built beyond the borders of Horry County, why not look at using that $25 million per year toward road projects that could benefit Horry County citizens immediately upon their completion and certainly meet the standard of being tourism related?

One project that quickly comes to mind for study is raising the road bed of SC 22 between Hwy 905 and Hwy 90 to eliminate the flooding of that road that occurred during Hurricane Florence. One could even say this improvement will benefit I-73 if that road ever becomes a reality.

Two other projects that would immediately benefit both local citizens and tourists would be raising the road bed of SC 9 around Aberdeen to prevent flooding closure of the road such as has been experienced at least four times since 1999 and improvements to U.S. 501 in the Lake Busbee area to help prevent the issues Hurricane Florence and previous storms caused on that road.

Considering the designation of the excess Hospitality Fee revenue to any or all of the above three projects would have immediate benefit to citizens rather than wasting the money on purchasing rights of way and beginning engineering design of a road that may never be built.

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Tilly Swamp Rezoning – What Next

November 23, 2018 9:32 AM
Tilly Swamp Rezoning – What Next

The rezoning for the Bear properties in the Tilly Swamp area failed to get second reading approval of the rezoning ordinance at the regular November 13, 2018 meeting of Horry County Council, but the issue is not decided yet.

The rezoning failed by a 6-5 vote of council. After the vote, council immediately took a break. According to sources who spoke with Grand Strand Daily on the condition of anonymity, council member Paul Prince, one of the 6 ‘No’ votes, spoke with several council members from the ‘Yes’ side during the break.

When council reconvened, Prince announced he was “confused” during the rezoning vote and moved for reconsideration. After receiving a second to the motion, the five remaining ‘No’ voting council members walked from the dais and left the council chambers leaving only six council members in the meeting at that time.

Council chairman Mark Lazarus has a conflict of interest on the issue and recused himself from the vote which includes leaving the council chambers during any discussion and/or vote on the rezoning ordinance.

Six members of council is not a quorum for conducting business, therefore no reconsideration vote of the rezoning ordinance could be taken.

The main issues of concern with the rezoning are lack of sufficient infrastructure to support nearly 1,500 new homes in the Tilly Swamp area as well as lack of sufficient police, fire and EMS services in the location.

Those issues were addressed by spokespersons for the approximately 250 members of the public who were present in council chambers demonstrating opposition to the rezoning ordinance. Those issues will not go away in the short term.

A vote on an ordinance can be reconsidered before the minutes of the meeting at which the original vote took place are approved by council. Those minutes will not be considered for approval until the December 18, 2018 regular meeting of council.

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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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Hyperbole Marks the Lazarus Campaign

June 5, 2018 7:30 AM
Hyperbole Marks the Lazarus Campaign

Reading the Mark Lazarus campaign mailers immediately brought to my mind Ronald Reagan telling Jimmy Carter “There you go again” during the 1980 presidential campaign.

The phrase has become part of the political lexicon to mean a candidate has entered the realm of hyperbole in his or her campaign statements.

The Lazarus campaign claiming $1 billion in infrastructure improvements in the county is certainly hyperbole, at least.

Most of that money comes from Ride projects and the new airport terminal.

County council has very little say in Ride projects. The process begins with an advisory committee which establishes a list of needed projects. That list goes to a sales tax advisory commission who establishes a final list that goes to county council.

Council may vote the list up or down, but it can’t make any changes to what the commission proposed. If council approves the list, it then goes to the voters in a binding referendum question asking whether an additional one percent sales tax should be levied on purchases in the county to pay for Ride projects.

The citizens are asked to approve additional taxes on themselves because a succession of councils and our state legislative delegation have allowed development to far outpace infrastructure improvements in the county.

If I have this correct, the citizens vote to levy extra taxes on themselves so Lazarus can claim he is responsible for infrastructure improvements.

Eddie Dyer, who served as chairman of both the advisory committee and sales tax commission, made the following statement about road conditions in Horry County when presenting council with $592 million in projects for Ride III:

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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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