Post Tagged with: "Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation"

The Eldridge and Carotti Version of Extortion – ‘He Said, He Said, She Said, He Said’

January 7, 2019 3:53 AM
The Eldridge and Carotti Version of Extortion – ‘He Said, He Said, She Said, He Said’

Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge and Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti were left off the hook last Friday when Horry County Council quickly voted to adjourn a meeting rather than drill down on why the two embarrassed the county by calling for a SLED investigation of a rather ridiculous version of events allegedly involving council Chairman Johnny Gardner.

Using alleged here is really a stretch as fantasy much closer describes a five-page email Carotti authored and Eldridge said, in a letter delivered to council members after the meeting, “accurately summarized” what transpired.

If Eldridge and Carotti are to be believed, we have to accept that Gardner attempted to have the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) funnel “thousands of dollars” (Eldridge words) to Donald Smith (Gardner’s campaign consultant), somehow using the Beach Ball Classic “for political cover” (Carotti words). The EDC board is filled with many of the most prominent and politically connected business people, educators and government officials in the county.

By Carotti’s admission in his email, he began writing the email on the 14th relating events that began on (or before) December 5th. Carotti completed his email on December 19th sending it to Eldridge and the 12 members of county council at that time. The entire email was leaked and published in a Columbia media outlet within 12 hours of its completion.

There are supposedly only 14 people who had initial access to this email. At least one of those was the source of its initial leak. Find the leaker among Eldridge, Carotti and the 12 members of council in December and you will discover not only the reason for the leak, but also the reason the email was written in the first place. The motivation will be political not legal, moral or ethical.

The email contains information Carotti allegedly heard from Davis about conversations she allegedly had with Barefoot. In other words, ‘he said, she said, he said.’ In Eldridge’s case, most of his knowledge was gained from Carotti’s retelling of those conversations, or another way, ’he said, he said, she said, he said.’

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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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New Year Brings New Hope and New Challenges

January 2, 2018 5:49 AM
New Year Brings New Hope and New Challenges

A New Year traditionally brings with it new hope and positive feelings about the year ahead.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus commented in a Facebook post on New Year’s Day about making 2018 a year of positivism. I hope Lazarus is able to achieve that positivism in county government.

This year will be interesting with three new members recently elected to Myrtle Beach City Council, including a new mayor, and seven council members up for re-election for Horry County Council including Chairman Lazarus.

But it takes more than hopes and feelings to achieve positive results in government. It takes hard work, transparency and proper goal setting to get the most “bang” for each “buck” collected from the taxpaying public.

Both Myrtle Beach City Council and Horry County Council have been lax in this area in years past.

Maybe the most important thing both councils have to remember is the citizens elect them to make decisions that benefit the community as a whole. Council then directs staff to carry out these decisions.

Too often, this process has become muddled with certain council and staff members working behind closed doors to benefit special interests at the expense of the general public. This is at least part of the reason Myrtle Beach has three new members of council.

Below are just a few of the actions by city council that the public voted against in November:

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Questioning the Arrogant County Response to the Angie Jones Lawsuit

December 18, 2017 11:02 AM
Questioning the Arrogant County Response to the Angie Jones Lawsuit

Horry County’s response to the lawsuit filed by Treasurer Angie Jones raises many questions about what exactly is going on in county government.

Shortly after assuming office on July 1, 2017, Jones requested funding be added to the Treasurer’s Office budget of approximately $30,000 in order to hire one additional clerk to help with service to customers in Conway, Myrtle Beach, Little River and Surfside Beach offices as needed.

This request was rejected by the county council’s Administration Committee.

As a result, Jones filed her lawsuit against the county requesting sufficient funding and staffing to effectively run her office.

In response to the summons and complaint, the county charged, “… such issues are solely as a result of her (Jones) mismanagement of her offices and her own decisions, including her decisions to drive out and remove and replace competent long-term employees with friends and political supporters lacking in relevant experience.”

In addition, the county alleges Jones has exceeded the budget for the Treasurer’s Office and should be held personally responsible for paying back to the county any budget deficit as well as attorney’s fees for defending the lawsuit.

Speaking of mismanagement and paying back budget deficits by this county government is laughable in light of past and present issues with its initiatives, its budget and its decisions.

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Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones Lawsuit Raises Questions About County Budget

November 25, 2017 11:04 AM
Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones Lawsuit Raises Questions About County Budget

A lawsuit filed by Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones against Horry County Government earlier this week raises questions about the county budget and the process used to establish it.

In her complaint, Jones claims the county government is not meeting its constitutional responsibility to adequately fund and staff her department.

As a result, Jones says her department is short of personnel necessitating closing of satellite offices for periods of time during the workday, thereby inhibiting the amount and timeliness of service provided by the department to the public.

Jones was elected to office in November 2016, but was not sworn in until the beginning of the current fiscal year on July 1, 2017, in accordance with state law.

During the interim period between election and swearing in, Jones says she was not allowed by county council to take part in the budget process for the current fiscal year, even though she knew additional personnel were needed in the department.

During an interview on “Talking Politics”, a television show co-hosted by John Bonsignor and this writer, Jones said she approached the county administration committee to request funds to hire another administrative assistant to help alleviate the shortages in satellite offices.

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Final AvCraft Chapter?

June 16, 2016 6:16 AM
Final AvCraft Chapter?

The Horry County Transportation Committee voted earlier this week to write off $113,687 in unpaid rent from AvCraft Technical Services that the county will never collect anyway.

AvCraft filed for bankruptcy in March 2015 after an 11 year history of failing to make good on its promises to Horry County.

This should be the final chapter in the saga of local and state politicians, especially Horry County Council, looking at AvCraft through rose colored glasses in the name of economic development.

Since arriving to much hoopla in 2004, AvCraft was consistent in only two areas – it consistently failed to meet job goal promises and it consistently requested and received rent reductions on the three hangars at Myrtle Beach International it rented from the Horry County Department of Airports.

After eight years of failing to meet goals, Horry County Council tried one last time in January 2012 to help AvCraft save itself with the recommendation of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.

One of the main items in that agreement was a $1.25 million reduction in rent on the county hangars over a five year period. This came after three earlier rent reductions, agreed to by the county, failed to make AvCraft profitable.

The following four comments made after the 2012 incentive package was approved demonstrate how far from reality politicians and their economic development arms exist from reality:

“I am thankful for the company’s commitment to Horry County and proud of our economic development team for this terrific announcement.” – Rep. Tom Rice.

“It’s another great day in South Carolina, and we are going to celebrate AvCraft’s decision to expand and create 150 new jobs in Horry County.” – Gov. Nikki Haley.

“AvCraft is a tremendous asset to our community, and this project is just the beginning for aviation-related businesses locating and expanding in the Myrtle Beach region.” – Doug Wendel, MBREDC board chairman at the time.

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Potential Buyer Looking at PTR Industries

April 28, 2016 7:16 AM
Potential Buyer Looking at PTR Industries

(Above Gov. Nikki Haley with a special edition assault rifle presented to her by PTR Industries}

A firm from New York state is reportedly looking at the possibility of buying PTR Industries, a deal that could save the company’s operations at Horry County’s Cool Springs Business Park.

PTR Industries was recruited to relocate from Connecticut to Horry County in 2013 by the Myrtle Beach Regional Development Corporation. This was touted as a major coup by MBREDC as Horry County was a successful bidder over several other states in landing PTR Industries.

A package that included an approximately $1 million upgrade of a county spec building at Cool Springs Business Park and incentive based job creation credits was put together by MBREDC and the SC Department of Commerce for PTR Industries.

The company brought approximately 21 workers with it from Connecticut and promised to create an additional 145 jobs in Horry County within three years.

PTR Industries commenced operations in Horry County in January 2014 and hired approximately 28 additional employees in the first months of its operations.

However, it quickly fell behind in its rent payments to Horry County for the Cool Springs Business Park building that is its headquarters and manufacturing location. One week after a Grand Opening celebration, in July 2014, that included appearances by Gov. Nikki Haley and local Congressman Tom Rice, PTR Industries laid off some workers and instituted a 10% across the board pay cut to those remaining.

Since then, PTR Industries has struggled. According to several sources, Horry County Council restructured its rent deal with PTR Industries last fall in order to help the company become current.

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Horry County – Myrtle Beach Land Deal

October 13, 2015 8:06 AM
Horry County – Myrtle Beach Land Deal

Horry County and the City of Myrtle Beach are investigating a joint purchase of the former Hard Rock Theme Park.

According to sources familiar with the talks, the reason for the purchase is to build additional sports fields for the sports tourism industry.

This is not a good idea on several levels.

Horry County and Myrtle Beach should not use public tax dollars for the purchase of land and construction of sports facilities for the tourism industry.

Horry County just raised property taxes by 7.2 mils (the maximum increase allowed by state law) for this current fiscal year ostensibly for pay increases and public safety improvements.

Now it not only proposes to use tax dollars to purchase land and build sports fields, but the purchase of the former theme park property by local governments would remove that land from the tax rolls, a double whammy for local taxpayers.

Horry County already wastes over $1 million per year funding the operations budget of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation. If this is such a good idea, shouldn’t MBREDC be able to recruit private business to purchase the land and build the facilities?

Myrtle Beach raises tens of millions of tax dollars, with its one cent tourism sales tax, that it turns over to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to use for tourism advertising. This is something that should be funded by marketing budgets of the private businesses in the tourism industry.

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Council Reconsiders HCSWA Recycling Contract

September 15, 2015 8:00 PM
Council Reconsiders HCSWA Recycling Contract

MBREDC Gets More Tax Dollars for Corporate Welfare

Horry County Council voted 11-0 to pass a reconsidered second reading of a budget amendment regarding the HCSWA recycling contract with Charleston County.

Second reading failed by a 7-4 vote at council’s September 1, 2015 regular meeting. The vote was on a budget amendment which requires a super majority of nine “Yes” votes to pass.

The budget amendment requires passage of one more reading to become law. If this occurs, the contract bringing Charleston County recyclables into Horry County for processing at the HCSWA material recycling facility will officially be approved.

The interesting part of the reconsidered vote is the recycling contract and other HCSWA issues will be considered at the September 24, 2015 meeting of the county’s Infrastructure and Regulation Committee.

This stipulation was added as an amendment to the budget amendment ordinance along with a requirement that the HCSWA will be subject to monthly scrutiny by the I&R Committee.

These new requirements were enough to get the deal to take recyclables from Charleston County back on track, at least for the time being.

Concerns from the council members who originally voted against second reading of the budget amendment arise from issues at the HCSWA, not the Charleston County contract itself, according to sources familiar with the issues.

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County Council Mistake on MBREDC

September 13, 2015 5:33 AM
County Council Mistake on MBREDC

Horry County Council is about to make another mistake with regard to the MBREDC.

Council will vote Tuesday night on extending its funding contract to the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation for another year. This would commit the county to three more years of funding from the current two.

County council should not have agreed to a new two-year contract when considering its budget for the current fiscal year. It is making a terrible mistake extending the contract.

The excuse is a new executive director for the MBREDC, for which there is a search currently ongoing, will want a three-year contract to agree to a deal.

But, with the history of the MBREDC, not only in its current iteration, but also in all the ones that came before, county council would do better if it burned $1.1 million in the parking lot of the government center as give this agency another dime!

What it is doing here is giving away tax dollars to an agency whose only goal is to give away more tax dollars to bribe companies to relocate to Horry County.

And, it doesn’t do that well!

All we have to do is remember AvCraft, Project Blue, Ithaca Gun Company and PTR Industries to see how woeful has been the performance of MBREDC.

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