Post Tagged with: "Myrtle Beach"

Runoff Elections Tuesday Will Finalize Municipal Council Seats

November 17, 2019 7:24 AM
Runoff Elections Tuesday Will Finalize Municipal Council Seats

Voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide runoff elections to finalize who will represent them on municipal councils in Conway, Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach.

The Conway runoff is between newcomer Justin Jordan and on again, off again former council member Randy Alford.

Jordan became interested in public service after founding Conway Cares, a group that helped citizens during the flooding from Hurricane Florence. He said the experience helped open his eyes to greater service to the citizens of his native city. He believes it’s time to bring some new thinking to council to preserve the Conway he grew up in for future generations and to be open minded and a voice of reason for all citizens in the city. It is believed Jordan would work well with newly elected council member Alex Hyman to bring a new dynamic to council.

Alford previously served on council but was defeated for reelection just two years ago.

The Myrtle Beach runoff for the final city council seat is between incumbent Mary Jeffcoat and newcomer John Krajc. This race brings an interesting dynamic in that Mayor Brenda Bethune has promoted the Krajc candidacy against incumbent Jeffcoat who has basically supported all of the mayor’s initiatives.

The government directed central planning of the city will apparently continue to the detriment of the businesses and citizens south of the former pavilion  site regardless of which candidate wins the runoff.

In Surfside Beach no candidate won election in the first round of voting. Bob Hellyer and Julie Samples finished one-two in the mayoral race while incumbent council member David Pellegrino was ousted. Paul Holder, Michael Drake, Cindy Keating and Kathryn Martin finished in that order for council seats. The top three vote getters in the runoff among those four will win council seats.

Surfside Beach politics is always interesting. In this election, no incumbent whose term was up chose to run for reelection. Pellegrino’s council term ends in two years. Samples previously served on council, choosing not to run for reelection when her term ended in 2017.

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Proposed Hospitality Fee Lawsuit Settlement Taking Money from Taxpayers

November 14, 2019 7:18 PM
Proposed Hospitality Fee Lawsuit Settlement Taking Money from Taxpayers

The proposed agreement that county and city councils will be voting on to settle the hospitality fee lawsuit between the county and the cities will see money that should go to the benefit of the taxpayers instead going to pay attorney fees.

This is the first lawsuit settlement negotiation that I can remember where the injured parties, the taxpayers, were not even represented in the room.

In the case of the cities through three negotiation sessions, no elected officials from any of the cities, those elected to represent the citizens, could be bothered to be present. Several elected county council members attended each session.

The absence of city elected officials, especially mayors Brenda Bethune of Myrtle Beach, Marilyn Hatley of North Myrtle Beach and Bob Childs of Surfside Beach, the three cities at the forefront of the lawsuit, resulted in attorneys representing the cities to structure the settlement with no input of those elected to represent the citizens.

According to information received by Grand Strand Daily, the settlement will structure the lawsuit as a class action which will allow the attorneys representing the cities to split 33% of the settlement amount for themselves.

The reported settlement amount is the approximately $19.5 million revenue from the countywide 1.5% countywide hospitality fee collected within the respective city limits of the cities in the county from the time the bonds for the RIDE I program were paid off in February 2019 until June 30, 2019. That means the attorneys will split a cool $6.5 million from the settlement. In addition, those attorneys have already billed the cities a total over $750,000 in legal fees before the settlement is finalized.

County council member Harold Worley stated from the council dais that he would not vote to approve any settlement that gave $7 million taxpayer dollars to attorneys. Worley was speaking as the representative of county council District 1, which includes all of North Myrtle Beach. He believes that money should be spent for infrastructure improvements, public safety and like needs allowed by the hospitality fee law.

The $7 million will come out of the settlement amount for the cities. The county is only on the hook for approximately $350,000 billed by its attorneys.

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Will Myrtle Beach Voters Select Continued Central Planning or Support the Overall Health of the City Economy?

November 4, 2019 7:48 AM
Will Myrtle Beach Voters Select Continued Central Planning or Support the Overall Health of the City Economy?

The City of Myrtle Beach elections Tuesday could go a long way in determining the future success of the city.

The question is will the majority of voters continue to allow precincts serving the Dunes and Pine Lakes residents to determine the outcome?

Two years ago, voters seemed to be voting for change. What they got instead was a council of seven sheep who allow city manager John Pedersen to do whatever he wants.

After the election results of 2017, when Mayor John Rhodes and council member Randal Wallace were defeated and council member Wayne Gray chose not to run, Pedersen was overheard saying “Now I can run the city the way I want.”

And he has.

The first step was to put in place a ‘family friendly’ overlay zone on a section of Ocean Boulevard which was nothing but an attempt to run the Jewish merchants, who have been in business there for decades, out of business by claiming the CBD oil sold by those merchants was illegal. IT’S NOT!

https://youtu.be/uxG05FB7fzU

The second step was to increase the secrecy surrounding the city’s central planning for special districts such as the ‘super block.’

After the city secretly bought most of the properties in the ‘super block’ and threatened an illegal use of eminent domain to acquire the remainder, citizens were told it was going to be redeveloped with a new library and children’s museum as the anchor.

What we have seen is those properties acquired by the city are not listed for sale nor has the city issued a general request for proposals opening the redevelopment process up to anyone who would wish to locate a business there. Only cronies are allowed to make proposals on those properties.

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County Council Kicks I-73 Decision Down the Road

August 29, 2019 8:12 AM
County Council Kicks I-73 Decision Down the Road

Horry County Council again dodged making a definitive decision on the I-73 contract with SCDOT at its special meeting Wednesday.

Instead of voting to cancel or go forward with the contract, council voted to defer a final decision until the end of the year.

In the meantime, council has asked the cities to step up with funding for the project or the county would be forced to cancel the contract by December 31, 2019.

In simple terms, the county does not have the ability to fund the up to $25 million per year currently promised in the contract. SCDOT has asked for $12.5 million in the first year, but plans to bond against $25 million per year in future years.

The City of Myrtle Beach continues to cloud the truth by saying the county can fund the contract with its hospitality fee revenues from the unincorporated areas. This is not true.

With the county now banned from collecting a 1.5% hospitality fee, the municipalities and the cities collecting their own hospitality and accommodations taxes, the county has no more than approximately $10 million it can designate for I-73.

In order to reach the $25 million per year called for in the SCDOT contract, Myrtle Beach would have to pledge approximately the same as the county, $10 million per year, and North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Conway, Loris, Aynor, Atlantic Beach and Briarcliff would have to combine to make up the remaining $5 million.

I don’t believe any of that is going to happen. Not only would the cities have to pledge the funds each year, there would need to be an intergovernmental between the county and the municipalities formalizing those commitments and each party would need to sign the contract with SCDOT.

Those are the details of what needs to happen to keep the SCDOT contract alive. However, there are other details that make keeping the contract more disturbing.

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Hospitality Fee Mediation Impasse Demands New Direction by Local Governments

August 13, 2019 4:00 AM
Hospitality Fee Mediation Impasse Demands New Direction by Local Governments

After two extended mediation sessions between representatives from Myrtle Beach and Horry County, it is obvious the two sides are at an impasse for any agreement with regard to the ongoing hospitality fee lawsuit.

This may have been the result the city was looking for from the beginning. According to sources familiar with the proceedings, not one elected council member from Myrtle Beach participated in either of the mediation sessions.

Horry County had several elected council members participate in the sessions. It is extremely difficult to come to any solution if those who will ultimately pass the legislation that would be needed to approve and institute the agreement do not participate in the process.

With a view to court decisions to date, Horry County cannot now nor hope in the future to collect a 1.5% countywide hospitality fee as it has since 1997 until challenged in court by Myrtle Beach.

The simple way out of this mess is for both sides to step away from the legal process. Myrtle Beach and the other cities can collect the revenue from the new hospitality and accommodations taxes they passed earlier this year and spend that money as they choose.

Likewise, Horry County could continue to collect either the 1.5% hospitality fee it now receives from the unincorporated areas or choose to pass new ordinances under current state law for hospitality and accommodations taxes. The county could then spend those proceeds on the projects they need locally.

There is one possible perceived obstruction from the walking away process. Included in the initial lawsuit filed by Myrtle Beach is a claim that the countywide collection of the hospitality fee has been illegal since January 1, 2017 and that the county should refund the approximately $60 million collections from that date amount to.

Several considerations seem to make this claim spurious.

Those refunds cannot go to the cities. If taxes are collected illegally the refunds must go back to those who paid them, in other words the consumers.

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I-73 Funding, the County’s Hidden Objective in Hospitality Fee Squabble

July 22, 2019 3:40 AM
I-73 Funding, the County’s Hidden Objective in Hospitality Fee Squabble

Hidden beneath an ever rising pile of complaints, answers, motions, injunctions and exhibits in the City of Myrtle Beach v. Horry County lawsuit regarding the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee is the determination of a core group of county council members, county senior staff and special interests to retain sufficient funding for the construction of Interstate 73 in the county.

This has been the objective since April 2017 when former council chairman Mark Lazarus convinced council to remove the sunset provision from the county’s hospitality fee ordinance. Lazarus’ stated purpose at that time was to provide funding for I-73.

The month after Lazarus failed to retain the Republican nomination for council chairman, he conducted a special meeting of council to dedicate the revenue from the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee to the I-73 project.

At that meeting, council approved two resolutions, 82-18 and 84-18. Resolution 82-18 dedicated up to $25 million of the revenue from the countywide hospitality fee to the I-73 project. Lazarus tried for the entire amount of revenue, approximately $43 million, but was argued down by council member Harold Worley who was holding out for $18 million to be dedicated to public safety and infrastructure needs within the county.

However, under county ordinance, all the revenue from the 1.5% hospitality fee collected by the county is placed into a special road fund. Resolution 84-18 directed county staff to prepare an ordinance amendment to allow that revenue to be spent on roads, public safety and infrastructure.

The ordinance amendment dictated by Resolution 84-18 has never been prepared to this day. County staff, with the unspoken agreement of a majority of council, ignored the will of council expressed in Resolution 84-18 so the revenue from hospitality fees cannot be used for public safety and infrastructure other than roads.

During a budget workshop in late November 2018, Lazarus led council in approving entering into a contract with the South Carolina Department of Transportation, called the I-73 Financial Participation Agreement, for the county to commit up to $25 million per year for funding the project.

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Another Hospitality Fee Filing, Another Email, More County Lunacy

July 2, 2019 1:21 PM
Another Hospitality Fee Filing, Another Email, More County Lunacy

The City of Myrtle Beach filed a supplemental memorandum Monday in support of its lawsuit against Horry County’s continued collection of hospitality fees.

Leading the memorandum is an affidavit by North Myrtle Beach City Manager Michael Mahaney providing evidence of the county’s continued collection of the hospitality fee in the City of North Myrtle Beach after June 21, 2019, and supporting a June 26, 2019 motion by Myrtle Beach for the county to show cause why it was not in contempt of a temporary restraining order issued by Judge Seals on June 21, 2019 prohibiting same.

Included in the filing was an email originated by attorney Henrietta Golding who is representing the county in the lawsuit.

The email appears to have evolved out of the string of emails that were the subject of several media stories yesterday. The email that appears to have started the string was sent by former county council chairman Mark Lazarus to Golding.

In her email, Goldings criticizes the judge and the temporary restraining order the judge issued against the county for having “many errors”; states, “This is solely the fault of Myrtle Beach” and appears to discuss the county’s strategy in moving forward by saying the county will try to get a “supersedeas” and saying “if the county took steps to suspend the ordinance (creating the hospitality fee), then probably create legal issues detrimental to the county.”

Golding’s email was sent to Lazarus, county council members Johnny Vaught, Harold Worley, Tyler Servant and Dennis DiSabato, interim administrator Steve Gosnell, county attorney Arrigo Carotti, North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, Mahaney and Surfside Beach City Manager Dennis Pieper.

The choice of recipients is confusing as Golding only represents six – the four council members, county administrator and county attorney. Lazarus has no official position with the county since his term ended December 31, 2018. Hatley, Mahaney and Pieper support the position of Myrtle Beach that the county has been illegally collecting the hospitality fees since January 1, 2017 when the original sunset provision of the county hospitality fee ordinance expired.

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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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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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County Says No to Secret Negotiations on Hospitality Fees

March 29, 2019 8:30 AM
County Says No to Secret Negotiations on Hospitality Fees

Horry County Council members have given a resounding NO to holding secret negotiations with representatives from the municipalities about hospitality fees and possible funding for I-73.

The City of Myrtle Beach proposed discussions behind closed doors by sending a confidentiality agreement to the county and the other seven municipalities in Horry County. The city is trying to couch any discussions on hospitality fees as a resolution conference with regard to the lawsuit it recently filed against Horry County over the subject. The city said S.C. Rules of Procedure Section 408 applies to the discussions.

In the very best interpretation of the city’s position, this is a stretch.

The city filed its lawsuit against the county claiming the county’s continued collection of the 1.5% portion of the hospitality fee beyond January 1, 2017 is illegal. The complaint was structured in a way that a class action lawsuit (municipalities v the county) could be requested.

However, to date no other municipality has joined the lawsuit and no judge has certified a class action.

Therefore, any negotiations that includes representatives from other than Myrtle Beach and Horry County couldn’t truly be considered a dispute resolution conference as it would include third parties not currently included in the lawsuit.

More importantly, any discussions about dividing public tax revenues or spending public tax dollars for public projects by public agencies should be held in the open.

What appears to have happened is Myrtle Beach jumped the gun on the hospitality fee issue. It hurried a city ordinance through two readings in order to capture all hospitality tax, 2% on just prepared food and beverages, allowed under current state law, collected by the city to remain in Myrtle Beach tax coffers.

Myrtle Beach next filed its lawsuit against Horry County claiming the original hospitality tax ordinance passed by Horry County with consent of the cities in late 1996 expired on January 1, 2017. The original ordinance placed a 2.5% tax on all accommodations, prepared food and beverages and tickets sold within the county. Of that, 1.5% collected countywide was specifically designated to pay off the bonds for the Ride I projects.

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