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Tony Cox

SCDOT Commissioner silent on Hospitality funding war

The fued between Horry County Council and the Horry County League of Cities is certainly not hospitable.

At issue is a 1.5% hospitality tax.

Former Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus extended that 20 year tax in May 2017. The tax was extended into perpetuity. The tax brought in over $600 million during the past 20 plus years.

In 2017, MyrtleBeach SC news questioned whether the tax could be legally extended. The City of Myrtle Beach raised no such objections.

In 2019, however, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and the city filed a lawsuit stating collections of the 1.5% fees were illegal.

This week, North Myrtle Beach Mayor Hatley publicly joined the fight at a press conference called Monday morning. She asked why Horry County would reach out to S.C. Representatives asking them to create new legislation, House Bill 4597.

Setting the record straight

Horry County Council Chairman Gardner stated he and his team had not reached out requesting House Bill 4597.

We reported this week that it was the tourism lobby who approached the S.C. House delegation requesting House Bill 4597. Legislators have since gone silent, not wanting to get involved in this public fray.

I’ll Show You! I’ll Kill Me!

Why is Myrtle Beach choosing to lose $4 million in annual tax dollars?

At Tuesday night’s Horry County Council meeting, Councilman Harold Worley also asked questions surrounding the ongoing funding dispute largely between the City of Myrtle Beach and Horry County.

Why would the City of Myrtle Beach leave $4 million in tax revenues on the table?

What Brought this to a head?

In December of 2018, then Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus rushed through a contract with SCDOT. The meeting’s video can be seen below. Councilman Worley warned the group that local cities were likely to not support Lazarus’ contract with SCDOT and would likely challenge the funding.

An Unfunded School

Councilman Worley question whether the city of Myrtle Beach sued the county because Horry County sued the City of Myrtle Beach over a $20 million dollar school the city was supposed to build in Market Common. The city collected the $20 million. The school was never built. The county sued.

The City of Myrtle Beach operates at the top of its borrowing limit and is finding it difficult to borrow since this lawsuit was filed.

Worley addressed key members of the tourism lobby about the deteriorating relationship between the City of Myrtle Beach and Horry County here.

In truth, Mayor Bethune and Myrtle Beach City Manager, John Pedersen, do not run the City of Myrtle Beach. The tourism lobby, represented by Matthew Brittain and Steve Chapman in the video above, does. From watching this video, it is clear that the tourism lobby wants I-73.

HEADED TO MEDIATION

At Monday’s press conference, Chairman Gardner stated that the lawsuit Myrtle Beach filed against the county, by law, will be heading to legal mediation. The 1.5% hospitality funds currently being collected by the county are held up until that mediation occurs.

As such, Horry County voted on Tuesday in a second of three readings to raise taxes this year. The vote was ten county councilmen voting for the tax increase with Harold Worley and Tyler Servant voting against it. Servant and Worley are loved in their districts. They each hold two of the safest district seats in the county.

I 73 polling clouds the issue

Add into the mix, a questionable I 73 poll taken in five districts and touted by Councilman Johnny Vaught. Issues like these only add fuel to the drama.

Tony Cox

At first Tony Cox raised concerns. His silence is telling.

Most curious, however, is the silence from SCDOT Commissioner Tony Cox. Sources inform MyrtleBeach SC news that Cox recently met privately with Bethune and, later, Mayor Hatley. Is another I 73 plan in the works that would circumnavigate the county and force the county into the coast’s new SCDOT funding agreement?

We reached out yesterday to SCDOT spokesman Robert P Kudelka and asked the following: Robert, I write in regards to the SCDOT Horry County plan. We are being told that the Horry County League Of Cities is now devising their own SCDOT plan.  Of the two plans, is there one that your team likes best? 

At this time, we have not heard back from Mr. Kudelka.

40 year rule

For the past 40 years the power base of Horry County has been the City of Myrtle Beach. From the video below, it is clear that the coast has no intentions of giving up the power it yields.

Should Horry County lose this fight, however, merchants and residents county-wide will soon be paying mild to moderate tax increases and fees.

Secrecy and back door deals inside the city limits of Myrtle Beach as to the I-73 funding mystery continue.

Such conduct may be the death of the interstate altogether.

If forced to pay a significant portion of the road, many Horry County residents hope I-73 never becomes a reality. They prefer fixing existing roads first.

Monday’s League Of Cities Press Conference

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About David Hucks

Born in 1961, David is a 12th generation descendant of the area we now call Myrtle Beach, S.C. David attended Coastal Carolina University and like most of his family, has never left the area. David is the lead journalist at MyrtleBeachSC.com

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