Tag: I-73 funding

Rep. William Bailey Issues Statement on Gov. McMaster Visit and I-73 Funding

Statement of State Representative William Bailey regarding Governor’s visit to Myrtle Beach to announce $300 million in “Cares Recovery” funds dedicated to I-73

I have lived in Horry County all my life. To me it has always been a special place to live, work, and retire. Over the years we have worked to take care of our natural resources, like beach renourishment. However, we have failed to renourish our infrastructure system which is now in need of substantial repairs. Our our government has neglected these issues and provided no funding. Meanwhile our residents suffer.

Governor McMaster has scheduled a press conference in Myrtle Beach to announce that he would like to commit $300 million in “Cares Recovery” funds to I-73.

For thirty years politicians have been talking about I-73 and about how great it would be for tourism in Myrtle Beach. Over the years the once popular concept has limped along for a number of reasons. We have seen other states put this project aside. While a nice idea, things have changed since 1991 and priorities in Horry County have shifted.

For me, for the Governor to make this announcement at this time is one of the most irresponsible actions I have witnessed in my three years representing the amazing people of district 104. Here is my reasoning behind my statement.
1. It is fiscally irresponsible for the Governor to offer monies for any project during such an uncertain time we our state is still battling COVID-19. We currently have no idea what the future hospital and first responder needs will be. Health and safety should always be our first priority.
2. On multiple occasions, elected officials have been told there are no monies for our deteriorating and unsafe local roads in Horry County. These are roads that our residents use every day and desperately need to ensure their quality of life. These are the road that should take priority over I-73.
3. The Governor has been making public announcements in different areas of the state pledging over half a billion dollars in ARPA funds for projects unrelated to health and safety! The Governor has no appropriation powers under the South Carolina Constitution.
4. In South Carolina, only the General Assembly has budget responsibility and the power to designate monies for various projects throughout the state. It is unlikely the General Assembly will have the appetite to justify to their constituents the Governor’s proposal.
I recognize and appreciate that the tourism industry is extremely important to our economy and many people have worked long and hard for the I-73 project. However, it cannot come at the price of the quality of life for South Carolinians who have endured so many hardships as a result of the Covid -19 crisis. They need the ARPA monies and they need it now! I do hope one day the federal government develops a fiscally reasonable and functional interstate option that they are willing to fund.

Shell Game Continues for I-73 Funding

The Horry County Administration Committee will vote today on a resolution dedicating a portion of annual hospitality fee collections to funding Interstate 73 construction within Horry County.
The effort to commit county dollars to Interstate 73 is being heavily pushed by county council member Dennis DiSabato.
A member of the Infrastructure and Regulation Committee, DiSabato failed to get the resolution on last month’s I&R Committee agenda. DiSabato received a much more sympathetic result from Admin Committee chairman Johnny Vaught after approaching Vaught on including the resolution on the Admin Committee agenda.
Regardless of the vote from the Admin Committee, a positive vote is expected, the resolution will go forward to full council for consideration next week. This is the latest ploy in attempting to commit county funding to the Interstate 73 project before any other government entity at the local, state or federal level commits to providing funding for I-73.
The story being spread to other council members is the resolution, if passed, does not commit the county to anything because it’s only a resolution stating the will of the current council to fund the road project.
That is not entirely true. If the resolution is approved by full council, it would be a direction to county staff to include dedication of $4.2 million of hospitality fee revenues to I-73 in next year’s county budget. Once such a dedication is included in the budget, it will be much more difficult to remove that line item during budget discussions and would serve as the impetus to approve a similar appropriation in succeeding budgets especially considering the pressure the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and its cronies continue to bring to local councils to fund I-73.
Last month the Chamber promoted the idea of having local governments in Horry County commit to providing a total of $250 million in funding for I-73. The idea was promoted that such a commitment from governments in Horry County could then be taken to the state government with a request for an additional $500 million in state funding for the project. The combined $750 million in commitments would then be taken to the federal government to request funding to complete the project.
Current estimates to complete construction of I-73 from its connection with SC-22 to connection with I-95 in Dillon run in the $1.5-2 billion range.
State and federal funding for the project remain highly questionable. The state government recently committed hundreds of millions of dollars received from the federal government in Covid relief funds to expanding Interstate 26 to six lanes between Charleston and Columbia. To date, not one dime of that money has been committed to construction of I-73.

Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Sealed Fate of Local I-73 Funding

The day the City of Myrtle Beach filed suit against Horry County to end collection of the countywide hospitality fee, local funding for Interstate 73 was doomed.

This may not have been the intention of the lawsuit, but it was the inevitable result.

When Gov. Henry McMaster met with local leaders a couple of months ago encouraging them to find a way to maintain I-73 funding, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune told the governor the lawsuit was not about I-73.

She was right. The lawsuit was about stopping the county’s ability to keep collecting the countywide hospitality fee and keeping all revenue collected in the city for the city’s use.

What Bethune did not understand was stopping the countywide hospitality fee collection stopped the funding stream for I-73 as an unintended consequence. Myrtle Beach must take sole blame for this consequence.

A county resolution to settle the lawsuit last April provided one-third of the countywide hospitality fee revenue would go toward funding I-73. Bethune and the city rejected the offer immediately.

Horry County Council approved removing a sunset provision from its hospitality fee ordinance in May 2017. The intent at that time, as clearly stated by then council chairman Mark Lazarus, was to use the countywide hospitality fee revenue to fund I-73 construction in Horry County.

However, it wasn’t until February 2019 that RIDE I bonds were paid off (the original purpose of the hospitality fee). Myrtle Beach filed suit just a few weeks after claiming the fee collection by the county has been illegal since January 1, 2017.

The original county ordinance put a period of 20 years on collection of the fee, which ended on the above date. The ordinance was later amended to continue collections until RIDE I bonds were completely paid off.

It is clear from the initial complaint filed by Myrtle Beach that the city wants to keep all hospitality fee revenues collected within the city limits for uses determined by city council. One must wonder why the city waited until March 2019 to file suit against the county if the fee has indeed been illegal since January 2017 as the city claims.

Horry County and Illegality are Becoming Synonymous

For the past week, Horry County and illegal have been combined in local media headlines about several issues..

Wednesday was a banner day for the county in such actions. Not only did Jay Bender, the preeminent legal authority on the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, say county council conducted an illegal executive session but also lawyers for the City of Myrtle Beach went to court requesting the judge to find the county “in contempt of the authority of this Court” for apparently violating a court order issued last Friday with respect to the county’s continued collection of the Hospitality Fee.

The actions that led to executive session were well orchestrated. After council member Johnny Vaught made the motion to go into executive session, council chairman correctly called it out of order because no executive session was listed on the agenda. County attorney and council parliamentarian Arrigo Carotti jumped up to say under Robert’s Rules of Order, a motion for executive session was proper.

What Carotti never addressed were the requirements of the FOIA law, which made executive session illegal in this case, according to Bender’s statement. Shouldn’t the county attorney and parliamentarian have addressed those requirements before ruling executive session legal?

As Bender pointed out, this is at least the third time this year Horry County has not adhered to FOIA requirements. Unfortunately, the FOIA law has no teeth. There are no consequences for the county if it chooses to ignore the law, which it does when necessary.

While Vaught stated some reasons for executive session that sounded shaky at the time, he accomplished his goal in keeping the interviews of candidates for the administrator position out of the public eye.

I submit Vaught did not want the public to be able to compare the candidates’ respective presentations, especially make comparisons with his chosen candidate Steve Gosnell. In that Vaught was successful even if it took an illegal executive session, which Carotti ruled appropriate, to accomplish it.

The Hospitality Fee issue is one that could affect the county significantly. Last Friday, Judge Seals ordered a temporary restraining order, which prohibits the county from collecting hospitality fees within the at least the city limits of Myrtle Beach and quite probably in any of the incorporated municipalities.