Lazarus gives ‘State of the County’ address - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Lazarus gives ‘State of the County’ address

Mark Lazarus gave his 'State of the County' speech Tuesday evening (Source: Patrick Lloyd WMBF News) Mark Lazarus gave his 'State of the County' speech Tuesday evening (Source: Patrick Lloyd WMBF News)

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus delivered his "State of the County" address Tuesday evening at the first Horry County Council meeting of 2018.

He focused on the good things of 2017 within the county, and talked about goals for 2018.

Lazarus spoke highly of Horry County Fire Rescue. He says HCFR installed smoke alarms in a lot of homes, and he says those smoke alarms have already proved to be helpful.

One issue WMBF News has covered for months is overtime and staffing issues at HCFR. Lazarus says while it has been a problem, he’s confident new recruits will help fill the gaps.

“Recruit classes have more than doubled in size,” Lazarus said. “And [they] give the department full staffing to control overtime costs and employee burnout.”

Another topic in the speech was roads. Lazarus says roads have always been a priority in the county. He says he’s proud of the work of county employees in their work on International Drive.

“They cleared and filled the entire five mile corridor themselves,” Lazarus said. “I am confident in saying no other county public works crew in the state of South Carolina could’ve done what our employees did. It made International Drive a reality with a grand opening slated for this April.”

You can read Lazarus’ speech in its entirety here:

As we move into a new year, I thought it would be good to take a look back at the accomplishments of 2017. Like many of us, I sometimes pay too much attention to the challenges of the future without being thankful for the successes of the past.

In asking our County Administrator for a list of those 2017 accomplishments, I already had a few at the front of my mind. What I received was an extensive list I believe we can all be proud of.

To start, Horry County Public Works employees tackled the initial phase of construction of International Drive. I can’t overstate how impressive this effort was. They cleared and filled the entire five-line corridor themselves. I am confident in saying no other county public works crew in the State of South Carolina could have done what our employees did. It made International Drive a reality, with a grand opening slated for this April.

The Infrastructure and Regulation Division didn’t rest on its laurels after International Drive. More than 43 miles of county roads were resurfaced and 19 miles of dirt roads paved. And on the topic of dirt roads, County Council approved a plan that takes dirt roads, ostensibly driveways, with no public benefit, out of the taxpayer-paid maintenance system.

Another function this division took on a few years ago was litter pick-up. The litter crews picked up an astounding 15,500 bags of litter in addition to other larger debris along our primary corridors. We also hosted our third annual County wide Cleanup.

Road work is always at the top of the list for County Council. Several RIDE II projects will wrap up in the coming year with the 707 widening, Glenn’s Bay widening/Highway 17 interchange improvements and Carolina Bays Parkway extension coming on line. Those projects haven’t slowed down getting projects going for RIDE III. All projects are underway. They are not being done sequentially as was done for RIDE II. Because of this acceleration, nearly all of the projects have engineers under contract for design and several will have dirt turning this time next year. Trust me, I, and the rest of council, are pushing as hard as possible to implement RIDE III. Our Code Enforcement Department can attest to the need. The department has been averaging 8,400 inspections per month on new construction, with housing starts averaging nearly 300 per month with a high of over 400 in October. Planning has reviewed nearly 100 major new developments.

Public Safety had a busy year, as well. The police department started up a Cold Case Unit that has resulted in an arrest in a 9-year-old case. Each of the four precincts held quarterly community meetings and will continue to do so. Hiring and retaining officers was and remains a priority. The hiring process has been streamlined, while ensuring quality hires through background checks, psychological evaluations and polygraph tests. And the department has strengthened its cooperation with area departments and state and federal agencies. We will continue as a council to find ways for better pay and retention for our public safety officials.

In a break with tradition and a nod to improved quality of life, our 911 operators now work a fixed shift – nights or days – with no more bouncing back and forth. We hope this aids our retention efforts in adding stability to families with a set work schedule.

Horry County Fire/EMS took delivery on 8 new fire engines and a new ladder truck in 2017 in our continued commitment to improving the quality and reliability of our equipment. This was accomplished by Council taking bold steps in the budgeting process to make it a reality. Additionally, recruit classes have been more than doubled in size to get the department to full staffing to control overtime costs and employee burnout. And in a cost savings effort, the Fire/EMS warehouse was consolidated into existing county-owned space at a savings of more than $30,000 per year in lease costs. Last, but certainly not least, more than 2,000 smoke alarms were installed by the department with more than one already alerting residents to a fire. We will continue to work on retention and pay for our personnel.

Coming off a historic flood in 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, our Emergency Management Department lead a group of nearly 80 members from local government, business, utility providers and elected officials in a weeklong FEMA training exercise in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Though I am proud of our response to these recent disasters, I know there is always room for improvement. This exercise highlighted some community needs and possible changes in our response plans. Top of the list, and likely to be part of budget discussions this spring, was the need for a new Emergency Operations Center to serve Horry County.

The effects of the tropical storms the last few years were felt along our beaches as erosion swept away much of our usable beach at high tide. A coalition of local and state officials worked tirelessly for more than a year to secure federal funding to help re-nourish our beaches as a part of a United States Army Corps of Engineers project. I’m proud to say that with the help of our Congressional Delegation, more specifically Senator Lindsey Graham and Congressman Tom Rice, we were able to secure $53.5 million

in federal funds for our beaches with a large portion of the southern and northern ends of the Grand Strand being re-nourished this summer and fall.

Myrtle Beach International Airport reached a significant milestone as we passed 1 million passengers for a calendar year for the first time – in November. This milestone could not have been reached without the concerted effort of our airport staff and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to develop new markets and increase seat capacity to existing markets. Having a new terminal to welcome these visitors didn’t hurt, either. This growth has pushed us to expand our parking lots and enabled the addition of several in-terminal vendors, Chik-fil-a and Cinnabon being the headliners. And, last but not least, Myrtle Beach International Airport will be hosting its first airshow in 25 years this April 28-29.

Our Economic Development Corporation has also had a great year. We announced the relocation of Teknoware to Horry County. They will employ 45 people with an average hourly wage of $20.00 and make a $5.875M Capital investment. Their 45,000 square foot facility is currently under construction in the Atlantic center.

Additionally, staff met with over 120 new business in 2017 to discuss relocation or expansion into Horry County. Those visits have resulted in 8 active projects that staff hopes to turn into announcements in 2018.

The EDC was awarded grants in 2017 totaling $1,631,820 from NESA, Santee Cooper and the Department of Commerce. They will continue to work hard to bring new industry into the County, helping us to diversify our economy.

I haven’t been able to touch on all of the projects that were completed in 2017 or the management efficiencies that have been instituted, but I hope this serves as a sampling of the accomplishments we had. I expect many more good things in 2018. I think what should stand out is the need for teamwork – among Horry County departments internally, as well as among area local governments and our state and federal partners. Working together we can accomplish a lot. We use the term “Team Horry” frequently, when referring to our efforts as a county. When that spirit is magnified by the cooperation of various agencies at all levels, state, federal, and local, we truly can get things done.

With that, I want to thank this Council for its hard work and dedication to this County. We don’t always agree, but you have shown professionalism and decorum in handling this job. You have made some BOLD decisions in the past that have put Horry County in the best financial condition we have been in a long time. I’m bold enough to say that with the inherent growth ahead and booming economy, Horry County will be on stable ground for

many years to come. Of course, this could not be done without the hard work and dedication of our 2,300 men and women who work for Horry County Government. These are some of the most dedicated and professional individuals I have ever worked with. I look forward to the coming year working with each of you as Team Horry!

I wish everyone a Happy New Year and am looking forward to a prosperous and productive 2018. GOD BLESS Horry County!

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