Coast RTA, SCDOT and Horry County Council

By Paul Gable

Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus officially announced the formation of an ad hoc committee to study a controversy between Coast RTA and S.C. Department of Transportation over a $1 million shelter and signage project that dates back to 2006, and an Intermodal Transportation Center project from 2010.

The ad hoc committee will be chaired by council member Marion Foxworth with council member Carl Schwartzkopf being a member. In addition, Coast RTA board chairman Bernie Silverman will be a committee member along with another Coast RTA board member to be determined by the Coast RTA board.

Rounding out the ad hoc committee will be a representative, from its members, chosen by the Myrtle Beach City Council and a representative, from its members, chosen by the Georgetown County Council as well as a community member chosen by Lazarus.

A report by the ad hoc committee is due to Horry County Council by May 31, 2014, so it can be used to help council determine the level of funding by Horry County to Coast RTA for the upcoming 2015 Fiscal Year (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015) and for future years, according to a statement by Lazarus.

The formation of the ad hoc committee was prompted by a briefing given to county council February 6, 2014, in executive session, by Doug Frate, Deputy Secretary, Intermodal Planning and Freight Programs, SCDOT.

The briefing, reportedly, centered around a response Frate provided to council regarding a letter Myers Rollins, Coast RTA CEO and General Manager, gave his board after a November 4, 2013 meeting between Coast RTA representatives and representatives from SCDOT.

Frate provided council members with a copy of his response with Rollins’ statements in black ink and Frate’s refutation of those statements in red ink. The copy is now being informally referred to as the ‘red line’ document.

However, many of Frate’s ‘red line’ refutations do not match an original source recording of the November 4, 2013 meeting, which I reviewed Monday at Coast RTA headquarters.

For example, Rollins stated in his letter to the Coast RTA board, “FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) does not blame Coast RTA for this breakdown. Instead FHWA is holding SCDOT to blame for failing to follow FHWA regulations for the shelter project.”

Frate refuted this statement by saying, “Again, I do not understand where this statement came from as FHWA was not present at the meeting and we cannot speak for FHWA…”

Yet, on the tape, Mark Lester, SCDOT Planning and Environmental Director, clearly states, “We’re in this together. From the Federal Highway Administration perspective (SC)DOT is at fault. They’re not looking at Coast, they’re looking at (SC)DOT.”

The project was officially cancelled by SCDOT in a December 17, 2013 letter to Coast RTA.

According to a source familiar with the issue, SCDOT was prepared to issue a continuance letter for the project until a copy of Rollins’ letter was sent to a representative of SCDOT. After that, the ‘red line’ document was drafted challenging Rollins’ statements.

(Ed. Note: This is the first in what will be a series of articles on the ad hoc committee and the Coast RTA/SCDOT controversy.)

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