Horry County makes change to hospitality fee resolution; area leaders must vote again
HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The legal battle over millions of area tax dollars will last a little longer.
Officials across Horry County met to discuss a proposed resolution over hospitality fees that was reached in November.
The issue stems from a lawsuit filed by the city of Myrtle Beach and other municipalities against Horry County. In that suit, the county is accused of illegally collecting those fees to pay for Interstate 73.
The original agreement called for the county to collect fees until 2017. One county council member said the recession put them behind on payments, causing them to extend the contract by five years.
The money collected from Horry County helped to build roads that everyone drives on.
“What roads did we build with it? Half a billion to a billion dollars worth of roads... 31, 22, Grissom Parkway, Main Street Connector in North Myrtle Beach,” said councilman Gary Loftus. “So it’s not one of those things we passed that didn’t work. It’s one of the things we passed that did work.”
The legal battle led to a decision by the Horry County Council to end a contract for I-73 with state officials last month, saying the county can’t pay for it alone.
After rounds of injunctions, appeals and hours of mediation, a resolution was eventually decided on.
A part of the resolution called for funding to complete Interstate 73, and also raise and widen S.C. 22 to address flooding that made the road impassable during recent hurricanes.
Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Atlantic Beach and Aynor voted on the matter Monday and approved of the resolution to reach a settlement in the case. Loris and Conway were the only municipalities that didn’t meet and vote on the issue.
“In mediation we’ve worked diligently to reach a settlement, and this is a culmination of all that work. And even though we can’t say much about it at this point, we feel this is a positive step forward and we look forward to moving forward,” said Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune.
But Horry County council members put on the brakes. They met in executive session, then came out and discussed their stance on the proposed resolution for nearly two hours.
“I think we’re here tonight to talk about the lawsuit and I just want to give my opinion on it,” said councilman Danny Hardee. “Number one, I think it’s total BS and anybody in the city of Myrtle Beach who started this and voted for it, I would highly recommend for you to pack up and get out of Horry County because this is about as much BS as anyone can digest. The money was spent on 31 to 22, which benefits them more than anyone in the county.”
They made an amendment to the resolution stating that the city of Myrtle Beach cannot use part of the settlement money to pay attorney fees, which officials said is between $6-$7 million. Council members voted 7-5 in favor of the resolution with the amendment.
Now, because the change was made to the proposed resolution, it must now go back to the municipalities and be voted on again.
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