Politics

Horry County Airport Advisory Board Dissolution

By Paul Gable

The proposed dissolution of the Horry County Airport Advisory Board currently being considered by Horry County Council is a mistake.

This has not always been my attitude.

From the late 1990’s through approximately 2008, the board was a rubber stamp for some of the worst decisions made by Horry County Department of Airports staff.

We only have to remember the west side passenger terminal debacle, the proposed three runway airport plan at Myrtle Beach International and the support given to AvCraft through too many years as exhibits.

But, recently, the Horry County Airport Advisory Board has acquired some members who are not afraid to speak their mind.

Among other things, these members saved a portion of the old passenger terminal building from being torn down for no reason and finally recommended pulling the plug on AvCraft.

An ordinance amending the Horry County Code of Ordinances to dissolve the board is up for second reading at the regular meeting of Tuesday May 19, 2015.

Elimination of the Horry County Airport Advisory Board would leave oversight of the airport staff entirely to the Horry County Administration Committee.

Through the years, this committee has shown itself to be just as much of a rubber stamp for airport staff flights of fancy as former iterations of the advisory board.

Unfortunately, the Administration Committee remains so, in my opinion. It isn’t that long ago that the administration committee and Horry County Council wasted over $500,000 buying empty seats on WestJet flights.

Airports can waste a lot of money in little time if left to their own devices.

The Department of Airports staff likes to tell everyone that taxpayer money is not used at the airport. This is not true.

The Department of Airports does not receive any Horry County property tax revenue from the county general fund. It does, however, receive millions of dollars in grants from the FAA each year. These grants are funded in part by federal aviation fuel tax and part from general appropriations by Congress from income tax revenue.

In addition, Passenger Facility Charges are collected from each departing passenger from Myrtle Beach International Airport. These charges are government “fees” added to the cost of each airline ticket.

Call them what you will, the reality is these fees, taxes and charges all provide revenue to one government entity or another.

With millions of dollars of taxpayer money being run through the airport department, some form of real oversight is needed to prevent waste.

The proposed ordinance amendment will not provide that oversight, in my opinion.

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