By Paul Gable
Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner presented his State of the County address to council members and the public last week highlighting progress by county council and staff in serving the citizens of the county.
Gardner said the council in collaboration with staff and the general public was shaping a bright future for the county. He said, “Council drafted, debated and passed ordinances designed to ensure a high quality of life for those who call our county home.”
Gardner noted the council initiated programs to build and widen roads, improve drainage systems, limit rezonings, protect native trees, create affordable housing opportunities and assess redevelopment needs and guide growth. He said community well-being and public safety remain top priorities for the county.
Toward that end, Gardner noted the county purchased six new firetrucks and seven new ambulances last year with more to come and that the county would be opening three new fire stations to serve growing areas of the county.
The county set another record with 305,000 calls to 911 answered and responded to. The county also added 159 new employees to serve the growing needs of county citizens.
Council reviewed, expanded and updated the county flood resilience plan. Included were upgrades which resulted in a 25% countywide reduction in flood insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses.
The County partnered with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in a $3.9 million flood risk management study focused on the Waccamaw River to guide decision making along the flood plain and reduce risk of future flood impacts. Gardner also noted the county stormwater department made great strides on beaver dam clearing and bridge improvements to improve the flow of water and traffic during storm events. He said hydrology studies on several area watersheds will help with flooding in the coming years.
Gardner noted the county made great strides, partnering with the cities, non-profits and local businesses in developing programs to treat mental health problems.
The remaining Ride III projects are moving toward completion and county council will consider new Ride IV projects to put before the voters in a referendum on the November 2024 general election ballot.
Gardner said the council is prepared to collaborate and communicate each step of the way as decisions are made on shared goals. He thanked council members, “all of whom care about the community and where it goes next.” “We may not always agree, but we always come together to hash (issues) out and to reach a solution in the interests of those we serve.” Gardner said.
Gardner concluded by calling 2023 a good year and 2024 a better year to come.
It must be said, since Gardner became chairman in 2019, there is less divisiveness among council members than there has been in the past. Council is listening to citizens in making decisions. One example occurred later in last week’s meeting when council listened to complaints from Waterside Drive community members about plans for a new Humane Society complex in their neighborhood. Council rescinded a resolution, passed in November 2023, encouraging the gift of land by Santee Cooper for the new complex which would have negative impacts on Waterside Drive residents and their properties.