By Paul Gable
Residents of Carolina Forest should be aware of how nearly they were cut out of the RIDE III decision making process before it even got started.
Horry County Council approved, at last week’s budget retreat, a process that would have cut out a citizens’ committee from the project identification phase of the RIDE process in favor of county and city staffs making up the initial list of projects.
Fortunately, after a short break, council reconsidered what it had approved and amended the process to put the citizens committee back in.
The process for identifying projects for RIDE III is beginning now. An 18 member citizens committee will have six members appointed by the League of Cities and 12 by county council – one by each council member.
After the committee identifies the initial list of projects, a six member commission will take over to finalize the list of projects and the order in which they will be started. The commission members will all be have three members nominated by county council and one each nominated by Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Conway – the three largest cities, by population, in the county.. All commission members will be approved by a vote of count council.
The final list of projects and their order will be submitted to county council for an up or down vote – no amendments are allowed.
The citizens of the county will have the final word with a referendum vote in the 2016 general election.
Why was last week’s vote so important?
In my opinion, it kept the process from being hijacked by special interests at its beginning.
Last winter, I heard about several meetings, among the county’s so-called movers and shakers, where I-73, the Southeastern Life Line from Socastee and long term funding for the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation were the projects this group wanted to fund with RIDE III.
More recently, gambling casinos are again rearing their heads again. I have heard of four different casino locations being looked at by various groups, all of which will have needs for infrastructure projects.
Carolina Forest residents have long felt they were ignored in RIDE II. If the process had gone forward as initially voted on the county council, they would have been ignored again.
As the process now stands, Carolina Forest residents will have to work hard to get a member or two on the citizens committee. But, if they want their voices heard, it is something they will have to band together to accomplish.