By Paul Gable
Horry County has apparently found a way to exert the influence it desires over Coast RTA decisions with a proposed funding agreement between the county and the bus agency.
After failing for the last two years to have its membership on the Coast RTA board increased, the county will now have the ability to virtually dictate decisions to the Coast RTA board if the new funding agreement is approved by both sides.
The funding agreement goes far beyond recommendations made by a Special Committee on Coast RTA appointed by Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus. The committee deliberated through four sessions before approving a report to Horry County Council that recommended continuing funding for the agency.
The committee recommended continuing funding Coast RTA with the $1.055 million amount determined by a countywide advisory referendum in 2010. The funding would be split into four equal amounts of $263,750 with first quarter funding available immediately, to help Coast RTA with cash flow, and the remaining three quarters on a reimbursable basis in accordance with a new funding agreement between the county and the agency.
However, the proposed funding agreement presented to county council at its regular meeting Tuesday night went way beyond the committee’s ideas. The committee considered such items as bus routes and personnel manning levels and compensation outside of its scope of work.
No more. Included in the agreement are provisions to require Coast RTA have an outside consultant conduct an analysis of bus routes, vehicles and personnel and to require the agency to have a forensic audit of its records conducted by an outside firm before any funding is released.
In addition, council will have significant say in the appointment of a new General Manager/CEO of the agency. Council approval will be required for an interim director/consultant while a search for a permanent replacement goes on.
Council will appoint three members of a six member search committee with Coast RTA board appointing the other three members. The search committee will narrow down candidates to a final three with the Coast RTA board making the final choice, but council approval required of any employment contract for the new agency head.
Coast RTA will come under the purview of the county’s Administration Committee, required to make monthly reports to the committee and all documents for grants will go through county scrutiny. Presumably this grant language applies to all grants, federal, state and local, received by Coast RTA taking county scrutiny into areas it should never be involved with.
Who needs an increase to three members of the Coast RTA board appointed by county council when the new funding agreement essentially presents county conditions as a ‘fait accompli’ to the Coast RTA board?
The county holds the threat of withholding its $1.055 million funding to Coast RTA unless the agency agrees to all the conditions of the proposed funding agreement.
The proposed funding agreement would give county council a level of scrutiny and approval over all Coast RTA operations and decisions that council does not exercise over other outside agencies that receive county funding, such as the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Council does not exercise this level of scrutiny over the Horry County Solid Waste Authority or its own Department of Airports.
The proposed funding agreement will be considered by resolution of council prior to third reading of the county budget. Coast RTA funding in that budget appears to hang on the final terms of that new funding agreement.
County council will consider the funding agreement resolution and third reading of its budget ordinance at its regular June 17, 2014 meeting.