By Paul Gable
It was a banner night for Horry County Council member Dennis DiSabato at last night’s regular meeting of county council. During discussions about proposed rezonings in the Postal Way corridor of Carolina Forest, DiSabato managed to anger virtually everyone in attendance with his comments on school overcrowding.
During public input on the proposed rezonings, citizens raised questions about supporting infrastructure, such as roads, schools and public safety. Several citizens commented on the already overcrowded schools in Carolina Forest and called for “pumping the brakes” on development for a while as schools and infrastructure catch up.
Schools and Horry County School Board members have been a punching bag for DiSabato throughout the process. During a meeting of the Carolina Forest Civic Association in March when discussions of Postal Way and other developments were discussed, DiSabato was asked, “What consideration does the Zoning Board and Horry County Council give to the capacity of the schools?”
DiSabato answered, “If you have concerns about the capacity of your schools, you should direct them to your school board member. I’ll be completely honest, none, I don’t consider it at all.”
During last nights council meeting when the issue of school overcrowding was again addressed by citizens, DiSabato interrupted one speaker saying, “I’m tired of hearing the same argument every meeting Mr. Chairman. It’s the same thing over and over and over again.”
DiSabato complained about not hearing from Horry County Schools staff and board members. “I can’t halt projects when we’re not getting feedback from Horry County Schools.” And “There is no reason on why there shouldn’t have been some forethought on why we don’t have another high school in the area.”
By the end of his little tirade, DiSabato had angered citizens, school board members in attendance and some fellow council members.
One problem is DiSabato apparently does not understand the difference between the school board and county council. Horry County Schools must accept every student who comes through their doors when they appear.
A number of new housing units are being completed and occupied every month in Horry County, some containing new students who must be accommodated. Two new elementary schools for Carolina Forest are already in the process of development but several years from completion.
It takes approximately five years, from design to completion of a school. Every 1,000 new students require a new school and Horry County Schools has added one new school every year, on average, for the past two decades. At current prices, a new elementary school costs $50 million, a new middle school $75 million and a new high school $160 million to build. That level of investment is made when it is needed, not just because it may be needed in the future.
The only way to allow the school district to get caught up and have a breather would be to pause, or pump the brake as one citizen put it, on rezonings for new developments. The citizens understand this, DiSabato apparently does not.