Myrtle Beach officials react to high response calls with plan of action

Myrtle Beach officials react to high response calls with plan of action

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The timeline for a big project and how to make residents and visitors safer at the beach in the Grand Strand is up for discussion Tuesday.

Two topics - beach renourishment and beach safety - are the main issues of concern. Myrtle Beach's beach advisory meeting is happening Tuesday to talk about both.

Beaches across the Grand Strand were damaged last year from storms, and  Hurricane Matthew added to that cost in October.  The South Strand is already scheduled to receive federal renourishment money for 2017 and Myrtle Beach wants in as well.

"We're continuing to work as a group in the whole Grand Strand with our folks in Washington to see if we can't get the entire Grand Strand on the schedule for 2017," said Mark Kruea, spokesman for the city of Myrtle Beach.

As of now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided only the South Strand is scheduled for renourishment in 2017.  Myrtle Beach and the North Strand are slated for renourishment in 2018.

"It makes sense to us to do it all at once. You'd save on mobilization costs," Kruea said. "It probably would be $4 to $8 million cheaper if you did it all at once instead of staging it over 10 years."

The project has been in the works since earlier in the year, before Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Hermine.

As a result of both hurricanes, all beaches have suffered from further erosion. That also leaves people living close to the beach less protected from the ocean.

"If you waited a year, you'd spend more money because you'd have to remobilize the contractor," Kruea said. "But you also have the chance of another storm.  At this point, there's not a whole lot of sand, a whole lot of beach there to provide that protection. That's what the dunes do, that's what renourishment is for, to give us that protection in the event we get another hurricane."

Kruea added creative discussions are going on now with the state on how to pool the money, but the city and county money is there. He said one idea is to buy the equipment themselves to save money, instead of hiring contractors every 10 years for renourishment projects.

Myrtle Beach Police Lt. Joey Crosby said the department will also be giving a presentation at the beach advisory meeting on ways to improve beach safety for summer 2017.

He said the response is a direct reaction to the amount of calls police and fire rescue received throughout the summer.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day this year, Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue Lt. Jon Evans said fire rescue answered more than 5,000 calls. In September, he told WMBF News that each year the numbers of emergency calls increase.

"Every year it gets busier and busier. Last year, we did a little over 13,000 calls, and it goes up every year," Evans said,

With numbers like that increasing each year in Myrtle Beach, Evans said there's no choice but to add more firefighters and equipment.

The MBFR squad increased its water rescue team from 20 to 35.  Fire Rescue is also receiving new UTV beach vehicles. This past summer, they borrowed golf carts from police to provide extra assistance.

Crosby said police beach patrol is also asking to add to their beach patrol unit for summer 2017.

He said police will give a presentation on how police, fire and lifeguards can enhance their partnership during Tuesday's meeting. This includes the increase in rescue swimmers from the fire department, who are also EMS trained.

Kruea said police are also asking to add lifeguard stands to franchise areas on the beach.  All these plans will go through the beach advisory committee, then move on to council for approval.

The meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m., Tuesday.

Copyright 2016 WMBF News. All rights reserved.