Horry County Council again dodged making a definitive decision on the I-73 contract with SCDOT at its special meeting Wednesday.
Instead of voting to cancel or go forward with the contract, council voted to defer a final decision until the end of the year.
In the meantime, council has asked the cities to step up with funding for the project or the county would be forced to cancel the contract by December 31, 2019.
In simple terms, the county does not have the ability to fund the up to $25 million per year currently promised in the contract. SCDOT has asked for $12.5 million in the first year, but plans to bond against $25 million per year in future years.
The City of Myrtle Beach continues to cloud the truth by saying the county can fund the contract with its hospitality fee revenues from the unincorporated areas. This is not true.
With the county now banned from collecting a 1.5% hospitality fee, the municipalities and the cities collecting their own hospitality and accommodations taxes, the county has no more than approximately $10 million it can designate for I-73.
In order to reach the $25 million per year called for in the SCDOT contract, Myrtle Beach would have to pledge approximately the same as the county, $10 million per year, and North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Conway, Loris, Aynor, Atlantic Beach and Briarcliff would have to combine to make up the remaining $5 million.
I don’t believe any of that is going to happen. Not only would the cities have to pledge the funds each year, there would need to be an intergovernmental between the county and the municipalities formalizing those commitments and each party would need to sign the contract with SCDOT.
Those are the details of what needs to happen to keep the SCDOT contract alive. However, there are other details that make keeping the contract more disturbing.