MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The City of Myrtle Beach discussed money, along with many special topics ranging from roads, to parking, to Memorial Day Weekend, in an early budget retreat, on December 17.
Police cameras and new technology
A big topic of discussion was safety, including getting more eyes on the streets of Myrtle Beach, by adding more cameras.
Right now, police are in the process of installing more than 800 surveillance cameras throughout the city. Police say the cameras catch criminals and are a deterrent to crime.
A delay in the project, is due to weather issues. The progress is currently in phase three of four.
The final phase of the project will kick off, this week, adding cameras to major intersections.
The goal is to have them all up by mid January.
The city will work on trying to get more cameras, next year, and as needed in the future. It's also looking at bringing in new technology, static license plate readers.
Right now, the city has two mobile readers that move with officers. The goal is to get these permanent ones installed at as many of the five entrances to the city, as possible, to catch criminals coming in and out of the area.
"If a wanted vehicle enters the city we immediately get a notification," City Manager John Pedersen said. "It also give us the ability since we have the surveillance cameras to begin to track that vehicle until patrol officers arrive on scene."
Which is why it's so important to have a big police force. Right now Myrtle Beach has about 20 open positions within the police department.
Pedersen said a national and local issue is getting officers to sign on.
The city is pushing more recruitment efforts, like its online videos, to try to get vacancies filled.
Memorial Day Weekend
Memorial Day Weekend is one of our busiest weekends and one of the most talked about which is the city spent time looking at plans, months in advance, to address last year's challenges.
"One of the things that was brought to our attention was noise complaints, and also concerns with citizens about traffic violations, so those are two areas in which we're going to identify additional resources that we can use to address those needs." Myrtle Beach Police Lt. Crosby said.
Those resources will include the same number of agencies which were in town, last year.
Police will also call on you, again, as volunteers in the ambassador program.
Another improvement will be a greater police presence on Kings Highway to avoid reckless driving, we've seen in the past.
Speaking of traffic, the bikefest traffic loop will return, only this year there will be a greater focus on making sure everyone understands it.
To keep you in the loop, the city will make clearer road maps and push social media efforts beginning next month.
"We're going to start that earlier and be transparent again with our operational plan to let people know what they can expect and what they'll be seeing if they come into the city Memorial Day Weekend," Crosby said.
Memorial Day Parade
Keeping a focus on what Memorial Day Weekend is all about, honoring our veterans, the city is bringing back the Military Appreciation Days Parade on the holiday weekend.
It will be held on Saturday at the Market Common, the old air force base.
New Fire Station
City leaders also discussed adding 7th fire station to the city, in 2017.
It would serve the Market Common Area to support its growth. One area, specifically, would be the homes in the expanded area at Coventry Boulevard, according to city spokesperson Mark Kruea.
The station would cost $1.7 million, which would come from bonds; however Kruea said, the redevelopment authority might pick up the bill.
Fred Nash Blvd. Expansion
The city has been talking for years about making it easier for you to get from the airport or the mall, to the Market Common Area, without having to drive on US-17 bypass. It continued the discussion about extending Fred Nash Boulevard.
Right now, Fred Nash, which extends past Joe's Diner, is a dead end. Extending it would alleviate traffic on US-17 while adding another route for you to get to the airport.
This proposal quickly turned to a different discussion for the city, safety.
Right now, the median is blocked off so that you can't turn onto Shetland Ln. at Fred Nash Blvd. from US-17 bypass south, because of construction in the area.
The city discussed possibly leaving it permanently closed because it has become a danger to drivers.
One council member said the extra time you'd spend without having the shortcut, could mean saving your life.
Another member said SCDOT does not want the median, reopened, at all.
While nothing was decided, awaiting a decision is concerning for businesses.
"Right now is bad, we were concerned about that are because of the accidents but right now its worse, its just a cluster," Debbie Sklener of Joe's Diner said. "I'm hoping the decision is a good one and I'm hoping we can all hang because people are really getting affected by this.">
Council members also proposed adding a traffic light.
Before any decisions can be made on extending the road, or keeping the intersection closed, the city has to continue the discussion with the county, the airport and other parties.
No decision has been made.
Ocean Boulevard Parking Proposal
Another road was a focus of the budget retreat, Ocean Boulevard.
The city wants to control parking in "The Golden Mile," the area of 32nd Ave. North to past 52nd Ave. North, to improve pedestrian safety.
The goal is to also deter people from parking in residential areas.
The plan could prohibit parking on Ocean Blvd. in this area, or it could limit it to one side.
Another idea is to add paid parking in the street ends, among other ideas.
Not everyone, including Mayor John Rhodes, wanted to completely prohibit parking on Ocean Blvd.
Council encouraged several options to be drafted, so it can re-visit this proposal, in the coming months.