Post Tagged with: "Ride II excess funds"

Alternate Reality and the $12 Million Swamp Land Purchase

May 9, 2018 4:13 AM
Alternate Reality and the $12 Million Swamp Land Purchase

A purported fact check by the Mark Lazarus campaign of the story I wrote on the $12 million purchase of swamp land near International Drive demonstrates an alternate reality exists in the race for the Republican nomination for council chairman.

The fact check pointed to four areas in the story that the Lazarus campaign chose to label “false.”

Let’s see. (See copy of post below)

The first two truths are a convoluted explanation of watersheds, mitigation credits and costs. What this all boils down to is that the purchase of the parcel on International Drive was completed in haste with only general ideas about what the Army Corps of Engineers will approve in a mitigation bank and what the Corps will deem wetlands disturbance areas in the Ride III projects.

No other parcel in the county was considered in the haste to purchase this parcel.

The excuse for the purchase on International Drive was used as proximity in the same watershed as the projects requiring mitigation. South Carolina mitigation is generally completed in seven major areas of the state of which the Pee Dee watershed is one. All of Horry County, except for the extreme southern region of the county, lies within the Pee Dee watershed.

There are sub-unit watersheds in the Pee Dee basin of which the Little Pee Dee and the Waccamaw River watersheds include most of the county. Mitigation is allowed between watersheds with some adjustments in credits as determined by the Corps of Engineers. There would certainly be no problem mitigating between the Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw River watersheds if it is even necessary. It is probable that lying within the larger Pee Dee watershed is enough.

Again we ask why weren’t wetlands in the western area of the county (where the cost is cheaper) considered and compared to the International Drive parcel if it was absolutely necessary for Horry County to establish a mitigation bank, which I submit it was not.

To truth three, I again submit there is a hidden agenda here that precluded consideration of any land other than the International Drive parcel despite the possibility other parcels could have provided significant savings to the county.

Read more ›

Horry County’s Election Year Budget

April 2, 2018 5:09 AM
Horry County’s Election Year Budget

Horry County Council’s recent budget workshop provided an interesting view into budget making in an election year.

County employees will receive what is being called a “three percent across the board merit raise.” In a countywide election, the county’s employees can account for thousands of votes including their families and friends.

In addition, ways to fund additional raises for public safety personnel are being considered. Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus has proposed an additional $1 per hour raise for all Level 1, 2 and 3 police officers, Sheriff’s deputies and detention officers, which, if approved, will bring their respective raise amount to nearly 10 percent across the board.

Lazarus also proposed an additional three percent across the board raise (six percent total) for firefighters and EMS personnel.

The proposed public safety raise percentages were billed as necessary for “retention” of personnel, but it is interesting this consideration only seems to come up every four years or so when the council chairman is up for re-election.

Even more interesting is the fact that this increase in the public safety budget will not add any additional personnel despite the growing population of the county, which causes an increased demand for services.

Council member Harold Worley proposed using some of the excess hospitality tax revenue that the county will begin experiencing next year, currently estimated at $40 million per year, for increasing the number of police and fire personnel. County council already passed an ordinance stipulating continued collection of full Hospitality Tax after Ride I bonds are paid off.

Lazarus, who wants to use that money for I-73 construction, was heard to utter “not going to happen” at Worley’s suggestion.

One only has to consider the nearly $12 million of excess Ride II tax collections that recently was used to purchase approximately 3,729 acres of swamp land under the guise of establishing a wetlands mitigation bank in the county. That purchase literally came out of nowhere with little explanation to full council before it was approved.

If council is unwilling to return those excess tax revenues to the citizens who paid them, it certainly seems those excesses would be better spent on items that benefit the largest number of citizens rather than on the wishes of a few at the top of county government. The voices of average citizens need to be heard.

Read more ›