By Paul Gable
The third meeting of the Select Committee on Coast RTA will have to obtain some answers to several unresolved issues regarding the shelter and sign project before the committee can begin to finalize a report.
Despite fairly lengthy presentations by Coast RTA and SCDOT at the second meeting of the committee, held on April 7th, the number of shelters Coast RTA managed to install for use by its passengers remains in question.
While Coast RTA has maintained all along that it purchased 73 shelters total and installed 15 of those shelters, 10 shelters installed in the City of Myrtle Beach appear to be used for purposes other than those for which a $1 million grant was received by Coast RTA from the Waccamaw COG GSATS in 2005.
The grant came from approximately $6 million the Waccamaw COG received from the State of South Carolina for use on local transportation projects. The initial source of the money was a federal gas tax rebate from the Federal Highway Administration.
After receiving notification of the grant award, but four months before signing a contract with SCDOT, which administered the grant, Coast RTA signed an Intergovernmental Agreement with the City of Myrtle Beach.
According to the city’s Public Information Officer, Mark Kruea, an item on the city’s Capital Improvement Projects list at the time was the purchase and installation of 10 shelters for use by Horry County Public Schools students within the city limits.
Recital number 3 in the Intergovernmental Agreement states in part, “The City plans to purchase ten (10) 4’ X10’ shelters…to install at pick up and drop off locations identified and utilized by Horry County Public Schools within the city limits of Myrtle Beach.”
Recital number 5 in the agreement states, “The City and the Coast agree that the Coast would benefit from the receipt of funds that the City budgeted to purchase shelters. The Coast further agrees to purchase the City shelters and receptacles through the GSATS grant. The funds would represent “local match” and would qualify for matching Federal funding.”
Item number 5 in the Agreement portion of the document states, “The City agrees to issue to the Coast a check in the amount of $50,000. In turn, the Coast hereby agrees to apply an equal amount from capital funds to apply to the purchase of shelters, benches, waste receptacles and other related materials and supplies.”
However, according to information received by the Select Committee, the GSATS grant required no local matching funds. Furthermore, accounting information provided to the Select Committee shows only the $1 million proceeds from the grant as funds which were drawn against for expenses on the sign and shelter project.
Under General Recitals in the contract between Coast RTA and SCDOT it is stated, “Whereas WRTA (Coast RTA) desires SCDOT to assist WRTA in the purchase and placement of public transportation passenger bus shelters and amenities throughout Horry and Georgetown Counties;…”
It is clear from the Coast RTA/SCDOT contract that shelters purchased under the contract were meant for the use of public transportation passengers. The 10 shelters installed throughout the city to which the Intergovernmental Agreement refers all have a sign on them which states, “This facility is for students using Horry County School buses. All others will be considered trespassing.”
According to information received from the city’s Public Information Office, none of the 10 shelters are located on current bus routes of Coast RTA. Even if they were, the sign on the shelters would make their use by Coast RTA passengers (public transportation passengers) a trespassing violation.
Yet, according to a Shelter Funding Analysis provided by Coast RTA to the committee, the 10 shelters were included among the purchase of 43 shelters invoiced to SCDOT for reimbursement in February 2007 and paid from the GSATS grant funds by SCDOT to Coast RTA in March 2007.
To further complicate the issue, Coast RTA invoiced SCDOT for installation of shelters, associated electrical work and concrete work by the City of Myrtle Beach in August 2007. SCDOT paid the invoice from GSATS grant funds in September 2007.
The only reference to the 10 shelters made to the Select Committee at its April 7th meeting was a reference by Coast RTA General Manager, during his general summary of the sign and shelter project, that “On August 13 (2007), 10 shelters were installed in various locations throughout the City of Myrtle Beach.”
A number of times during the April 7th committee meeting, references were made to the 73 shelters purchased and the 15 shelters installed by Coast RTA using GSATS grant money.
After a study of the documents related to the shelter project, it appears that only five of those 15 installed shelters were actually available for use by Coast RTA passengers.
Why after nine years are only five shelters available for use by Coast RTA passengers?
Were the purchase and installation of 10 shelters, for exclusive use by Horry County Public Schools students, valid expenses under the SCDOT/Coast RTA contract?
Should the shelters referred to in the Intergovernmental Agreement between Coast RTA and the City of Myrtle Beach have been included in the shelter and sign project administered by SCDOT from GSATS grant funds?
What happened to the $50,000 paid to Coast RTA by the City of Myrtle Beach?
These are some of the issues which have yet to be resolved by the committee before it can begin a final report on the management of the project and whether county funding to Coast RTA should continue.
The next meeting of the Select Committee on Coast RTA will be held April 21, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. in the Horry County Council conference room.