By Paul Gable
North Myrtle Beach City Council voted at last night’s meeting to provide $1.7 million annually to construction of Interstate 73 contingent on so many variables it really isn’t a provision at all.
Among the contingencies required for North Myrtle Beach to provide any money to I-73 is a requirement for the other cities and counties that would supposedly benefit from construction of the highway to also contribute money for construction of the road.
In addition, North Myrtle Beach restricted use of any money it may provide to actual construction costs. Specifically prohibited from use of any money provided by North Myrtle Beach are right of way acquisition, engineering and legal services, construction documents, environmental studies and reports of any kind. Funds from North Myrtle Beach may not be used on SC 22 or any other roadway and actual construction must begin before December 31, 2024.
Despite the headlines of local television stations last night, the North Myrtle Beach resolution contains so many restrictions and prior requirements from other local governmental agencies in three counties as to make it virtually meaningless.
The North Myrtle Beach resolution varies widely from a proposal by Gov. Henry McMaster during a press conference at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce in October 2021. According to the governor’s proposed $1.6 billion funding plan, the state will be asked to provide $795 million for the I-73 project all of which would be spent in Dillon and Marion counties. The federal government will be asked to provide $450 million, most of which would be spent in Marion and Dillon counties. Local governments in Horry County were asked to provide $350 million for construction of the road in Horry County. None of the cities in Dillon and Marion counties and the county governments themselves were not asked to provide any money toward construction of I-73.
The governor’s plan only included funding for construction of what is really an interstate spur road from I-95 south of Dillon to the eastern terminus of the road at the end of the current SC 22 in the Briarcliffe area.
Obviously, there is a wide variance between the governor’s proposed funding plan and the requirements for funding from the North Myrtle Beach resolution. The North Myrtle Beach vote follows an October 2021 rejection by Horry County Council of a resolution to commit $4.2 million per year to the I-73 project. Dillon City Council also passed a resolution opposing the I-73 project in October 2021.
The restrictions on use of the North Myrtle Beach money raise interesting points. Many of the individuals lobbying local governments to approve funding for I-73 are the same individuals who would potentially benefit from the sales and services specifically prohibited for funding from North Myrtle Beach. These individuals are also some of the biggest contributors to the campaigns of Tom Rice as well as the campaigns of state senators and representatives who verbally support I-73 and local government elected members who can be counted on to vote to fund the project.
I submit it’s time for Rice to obtain significant funding from the federal government for Interstate 73. It’s time for members of the General Assembly who benefit from these contributions (Russell Fry, Case Brittain, Heather Crawford, Tim McGinnis, Luke Rankin, et al.) to obtain state funding for the project.
To all those who have received the big campaign contributions in anticipation of I-73 contracts – Quit expecting, indeed trying to pressure local governments into doing your job for you!
Local governments should have no other concern than funding construction and maintenance of local roads with locally collected tax dollars and should not be asked to provide any funding for an interstate highway or a 66-mile spur of one.
That’s exactly what the North Myrtle Beach resolution actually says.
If Chamber President Karen Riordan really believes the propaganda her organization feeds to local politicians and media about the absolute necessity to build the I-73 spur to Dillon, it’s time for her to lead the Chamber into making a real contribution to the project.
The Chamber receives over $50 million of locally collected tax dollars annually. Riordan should ask state legislators to change the enabling legislation for the Tourism Development Fee to allow the City of Myrtle Beach to redirect to I-73 construction at least 50% of the tax revenue currently provided to the Chamber for marketing.
The Chamber is awash in tax dollars. Let it provide the local funding the governor wants for I-73 and leave local governments alone.