By Paul Gable
The RIDE III Committee had its opening meeting yesterday marking the first move toward a possible November 2016 ballot referendum for new road projects funded by a one-cent local sales tax.
The committee will take the next year or so considering possible road projects to include in the referendum with public meetings included on its future agenda.
One thing to remember is the committee is purely advisory.
Once the committee finalizes a list of possible projects, the list will be sent as recommendations to a six-member RIDE III Commission.
The commission is where the decision making power lies. It will be made up of three members appointed by Horry County Council and one member each appointed from the county’s three largest cities – Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Conway.
The commission will approve its own list of projects, which may include all, some or none of the projects recommended by the committee.
Once the commission finalizes its list of projects, the list will be sent to county council for an up or down vote on the entire list. County council may either accept or reject the list, but it may not make changes to it.
If a list of projects is approved by council, it will go to the citizens for consideration by referendum on the November 2016 general election ballot. If the referendum passes, the project list will be completed in order of ranking as long as the sales tax money holds out.
This is not exactly the same process that was used for RIDE II and, hopefully, it will work better in the overall interest of the citizens of Horry County.
The RIDE II process was, essentially, hijacked by the commission with project recommendations that could have helped the Carolina Forest community left off the final list and a host of projects to benefit the south end of the county included.
And don’t forget the most wasteful project on the RIDE II list – the construction of a grade separated interchange at the back gate of the former Air Force Base. This project was supposed to handle the massive increase in traffic generated by the new West Side Airport Terminal.
The terminal was not built. While interchange improvements were needed, they didn’t have to result in such a grandiose design that has been hampered by considerable cost overruns (at least 250%) and construction delays.
That’s what happens when politics controls the process.
Citizens of Horry County should pay attention to the RIDE III process. It’s your tax dollars that will be spent if the referendum is approved.
Special interests are already lining up to get their “pet” projects included. It will take a concerted effort by the citizens to make sure the final list of projects best reflects the overall needs of the county at large.