By Paul Gable
The first meeting of the ad hoc special committee looking into Coast RTA management practices and funding was held Monday.
The committee was created by Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus to help council determine what level of funding the county should provide to Coast RTA in upcoming years.
Specifically, the committee is looking into the circumstances that caused the sign/shelter project to be cancelled in December 2013 and the suspension of the intermodal center project earlier this year.
Committee chairman Marion Foxworth said the committee would be looking at whether management failures emblematic of bigger problems at Coast RTA caused difficulties with the two projects or whether they were blips on the windshield.
All members of the committee voiced support for mass transit in the county. Local and state funding are critical for Coast RTA to operate.
According to Julie Norton-Dew, Chief Financial Officer of Coast RTA, the agency operates with a budget of approximately $5 million, 20% of the revenue coming from passenger fares and 80% from federal, state and local government grants.
Horry County provides Coast RTA approximately $1.06 million per year, which is matched by the federal government. It is this level of funding, going forward, that could depend on the findings of the committee.
The next committee meeting will be April 7, 2014 at the Horry County Council Conference Room in the county’s Government and Justice Center.
At the April 7th meeting, Doug Frate of SCDOT will be making a presentation to the committee about why SCDOT cancelled the two projects. It was a presentation by Frate to Horry County Council, in February 2014, that caused Lazarus to appoint the special committee.
According to information provided at yesterday’s meeting by Norton-Dew and Mark Hoeweler of the Waccamaw Council of Governments, it was SCDOT’s lack of understanding of requirements for Federal Highway Administration grants that caused difficulty for the shelter/sign project to arise in May 2013.
A November 4, 2013 meeting between SCDOT and Coast RTA representatives focused on how to get the sign/shelter project back on track with FHWA regulations, but five weeks later, SCDOT cancelled the project.
Frate’s presentation, combined with a presentation by Coast RTA, will hopefully allow committee members get a clear picture of where the majority of the fault for the project’s cancellation lies.