HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – Horry County council members made a decision that caused many jaws to drop during Tuesday night’s meeting.
Horry County Council voted to cancel its I-73 contract with the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The vote was unanimous.
This comes after months of back and forth between the county and several municipalities over who should control hospitality and accommodations taxes.
Myrtle Beach filed a lawsuit in March, accusing Horry County of illegally taking millions of dollars in hospitality fees from municipalities.
“I feel very comfortable with what the council did tonight. It was the right thing to do because obviously the municipalities are not interested in participating in building I-73,” said councilman Harold Worley.
The hospitality fees that Horry County had been collecting for years was set to be used to help pay for I-73. But now that they’re in a legal battle with municipalities, it has left the county with no revenue source to pay for the work.
“We cannot do it alone. This county council cannot do it alone. We do not have the funding source to do that,” Worley said.
Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner said the option to cancel the contract had been on the table for some time and the deadline to make the decision was quickly approaching.
“The contract has a clause in it where it can be terminated with 30 days notice and we have been kicking that can down the road for months and months and months and it was just time to look at and we voted on terminating it today,” Gardner said.
But he said that this is not a setback for the project that would connect Myrtle Beach to I-95. Gardner said a new contract could be written up once the hospitality battle is resolved with municipalities and funding for the project is decided.
“The recommended mediated agreement will still be presented to our people and to all of the municipalities, a total of 8 governments altogether. They will vote on it and if that passes that will be presented to the judge who will hear us in court and hopefully approve it,” Gardner said.
Horry County Council said they will be writing a 30-day notice to SCDOT that it intends to cancel the contract. Gardner believes the administrator will write it up sometime this week and send it to the SCDOT.
U.S. Rep. Tom Rice released this statement once he learned that the Horry County Council decided to cancel the I-73 contract:
“All I can say is that it is an awful shame. Completion of I-73 would lead to thousands of more jobs in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee. It would bring more industry and higher pay. I-73 will do more to life the people of Horry County, Marion County, Dillon County and Marlboro County than anything else. I fight for I-73 every day. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott are fighting for I-73. Governor McMaster is fighting for I-73. We have all asked our local leaders to resolve their differences. And at this critical time our local leaders are willing to turn their back on it. It is an awful shame.”