By Paul Gable
As the Select Committee on Coast RTA considers its findings to report to Horry County Council, several items from the reams of information collected by the committee stand out.
While Coast RTA General Manager Myers Rollins told the committee several times that the project was “contaminated from the beginning” because SCDOT administered the project grant under the wrong set of federal guidelines, this mistake alone did not cause the project to fail.
Had Coast RTA completed the shelter project by the end of the second contract extension, this SCDOT mistake would have probably gone unnoticed. Coast RTA submitted and was paid on 13 invoices from 2007 through 2010 even though the wrong guidelines were being used.
Rollins also said several times that another contributing factor to the project’s failure was SCDOT denying the use of a “turnkey” contractor for the project as the correct federal guidelines required.
More probable is the lack of firm, defined bus routes combined with fluctuating funding for Coast RTA as the major reasons for ultimate failure of the project.
Selecting a turnkey contractor to install the shelters in early 2007 would not have helped the project at all since Coast RTA, over the course of the next several years, was experiencing the addition and subtraction of routes as its funding fluctuated.
Surely a turnkey contractor hired to produce and install the shelters would not also have been expected or contracted to determine long term bus routes, on which the shelters were to be installed, and the funding to support them.
Without firm, defined routes how do you select locations at which to place the shelters?
But, the biggest problem with the project was the 10 shelters brought into play by the Intergovernmental Agreement between Coast RTA and the City of Myrtle Beach. Inclusion of the 10 shelters, which were always designed for use by Horry County Schools students only, and the use of the $50,000 the city gave to Coast RTA for the shelters caused Coast RTA to ultimately be in violation of the Intergovernmental Agreement, the contract between Coast RTA and SCDOT, a Coast RTA board resolution and federal procurement guidelines.
Committee member and Coast RTA board chairman Bernie Silverman asked Rollins if SCDOT was specifically told that 10 shelters were to be installed in Myrtle Beach not on Coast RTA routes, but, instead, for the private use of Horry County Schools students.
Rollins never directly answered the question. Instead he told the committee that all work done on the shelter project was “pre-approved by SCDOT”.
Does that mean SCDOT pre-approved the purchase and installation of 10 shelters in Myrtle Beach for the private use of Horry County Schools students in direct violation of the SCDOT/Coast RTA contract and federal grant guidelines? I’m not buying that one!
Additionally, the installation and exclusive use of the 10 shelters by other than Coast RTA passengers violates the Coast RTA board resolution approving their purchase and Coast RTA violated the intergovernmental agreement with Myrtle Beach by using the $50,000 from Myrtle Beach for general operations expenses rather than to purchase shelters and associated equipment as the agreement stipulates.
If the project was “contaminated” from the beginning, it seems it was much more contaminated by the Intergovernmental Agreement, which was signed four months prior to the Coast RTA/SCDOT contract, than any other factor.
According to a source with knowledge of the project, internal controls, finance and grant management staff within Coast RTA were unaware of the existence of the Intergovernmental Agreement until it was reported in GSD last weekend.
One wonders why this agreement was not part of the permanent record of the shelter project since it accounted for 10 of the 15 shelters that were ultimately installed during the eight years from grant award to project cancellation.