By Paul Gable
Local funding for Coast RTA has been a topic of discussion, sometimes heated, for over a year.
The desire of Horry County Council to have more membership on the Coast RTA board almost cost the authority one-fourth of its funding from the county in the current fiscal year.
We are hearing a move may be made by some council members to substantially cut Horry County funding to Coast RTA in the 2014-15 fiscal year budget currently in its early stages of consideration by the county.
What the county and other local government bodies should consider is these cuts cost services to real people.
Lack of funding caused Coast RTA recently to cut a service called CATS Plus, which served the elderly, the poor and the infirm.
CATS Plus provided rides around the county for non-ambulatory citizens, especially the elderly and disabled, who live more than one-quarter mile away from regular Coast RTA routes.
Coast RTA general manager Myers Rollins said the program could be fully funded for $250,000 per year, providing transportation to those, especially in the rural areas of the county, who need it most.
To put that amount of funding in perspective, it is less than half what the county provided to WestJet to fly empty seats to Myrtle Beach International Airport. It is less than one-third the amount the Horry County Solid Waste Authority spent on lobbying in Columbia and it is one-tenth the amount the county, at the urging of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, provided to AvCraft in a third round of give-aways to that job producing challenged company.
If it is so easy to give away public money for such spurious reasons, why is it so difficult to provide a fraction of those amounts to fund a program that will help real county citizens?
I know the elderly, poor and infirm are not constituencies much thought about in Horry County. Those who benefit from Coast RTA transportation programs probably don’t bring many votes to the ballot box.
But, that’s no reason to ignore their needs when public money is so lavishly spread around in other areas that benefit no one other than possibly a select, special interest few!