CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) – Horry County will cancel its Interstate 73 contract with the South Carolina Department of Transportation within 90 days if they don’t have an agreement with the municipalities.
The county council made the decision at a special called meeting Wednesday to discuss the I-73 contract and their next step in the process. Council members discussed the issue for almost two hours in executive session.
This comes after months of back and forth between the county and several municipalities discussing who should control hospitality and accommodations taxes.
Horry County councilman Johnny Vaught told WMBF News that the fight between the county and municipalities over hospitality fees has left the county with no revenue source to pay for the work.
Council now plans to negotiate with several municipalities regarding taxes and fees over the next 90 days in hopes of coming to an agreement.
“Deadlines cause decisions. Right, ya’ll heard that before. So 90 days from today there will be a deadline and hopefully that will cause a decision. EIther a decision that I-73 is dead or a decision that Myrtle Beach has stepped up to the plate and that we’re working together,” Horry County Chairman Johnny Gardner said.
A Myrtle Beach spokesperson released the following statement saying:
“That’s better than killing the contract outright, but other factors are involved that may affect the window of time before such an agreement can be formalized. Myrtle Beach is on record as supporting I-73, including a financial contribution.”
On Tuesday, the city of Myrtle Beach fired back at the county’s decision on I-73, stating that Horry County is still able to collect $22 million in hospitality fees from unincorporated areas.
Gardner said the lawsuit filed by Myrtle Beach is what’s putting the road being a reality in jeopardy.
“You understand the irony of that, that Myrtle Beach is the one that would benefit the most from I-73. Myrtle Beach is the one who filed the lawsuit that jeopardized the very funds in which to build the road in which would help Myrtle Beach,” Gardner said.
Donna Kaloz, used to work for the National I-73 Association and said she has supported this interstate for nearly 30 years and that hasn’t changed.
“It’s a win-win... we hold the golden ticket for Horry, Marion, Dillion, Marlboro and the United States of America. It’s a piece of the greatest roadway in America. Let’s finish what we started. It was labeled a high priority, it is a high priority," Kaloz said.
Congressman Tom Rice has been vocal about getting the ball rolling on I-73. WMBF News reached out to him about the county’s decision. He issued this statement:
This is good news. We cannot let petty squabbles threaten better job opportunities and a better quality of life for our constituents. How can we expect to succeed if our competition for tourists and our competition for other industry all have access to modern interstate freeways, while we are driving on roads that were designed 75 years ago?
I hope that city and county officials quickly resolve their issues so that we can get I-73 off the ground and uplift our community. We’ve got to stop fighting each other and start fighting for this road!
WMBF News will continue to follow this story and will let you know when county and city leaders meet to discuss the taxes and fees.