By Paul Gable
July is normally a quiet time for local government, but Horry County Council will consider two resolutions at its regular July 16, 2013 meeting that could include a bit of controversy.
One resolution tells Huffman Helicopters, Inc. that the county does not intend to agree to a renewal of the November 1, 2008 lease agreement between the county and the company. This is the lease agreement under which Huffman Helicopters operates its tourist helicopter rides out of a corner of the Myrtle Beach International Airport property.
The noise of helicopter sight-seeing rides conducted by both Huffman Helicopters and Helicopter Adventure have been the source of increasing complaints from residents of neighborhoods negatively affected by noise from the operations.
Helicopter Adventure operates from private land, owned by Burroughs and Chapin, Inc., behind the former NASCAR Café. There is no lease with the county involved in its operations.
Within the last week, Huffman Helicopters has altered some of its routes taking them out over the beach and ocean in order to lessen the noise on residential neighborhoods.
Passage of the resolution only means that the current lease will not be renewed. If this step is taken, and it is expected, re-negotiation of the terms of the lease or negotiation of a new lease would bring this issue to the forefront of council considerations in the coming months and a potential clash of tourism vs. resident quality of life considerations.
The other resolution concerns approving the fourth quarter funding payment of just over $263,000 from Horry County to Coast RTA. The payment is currently affected by a budget amendment which requires a resolution from county council to release the money.
Coast RTA is budgeted to receive a total of $1.055 million from the county’s general fund for Fiscal Year 2014, which began July 1, 2013. The fourth quarter payment, due May 1, 2014, is currently held in abeyance pending some action on increasing Horry County representation on the Coast RTA board.
Coast RTA officials, four members of county council, one representative from Georgetown County and five members of the Horry County legislative delegation met last week to begin the process of changing the designation of Coast RTA board appointments.
Should Coast RTA lose the final payment from Horry County, its overall budget hit will be just under $600,000 due to loss of matching funds from the federal government as well as fares and advertising revenue from reduced or lost routes.