Horry County moves closer to completing public safety projects as leaders call attention to staffing needs

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 7:57 PM EST
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CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - Horry County Councilmembers gathered for a day-long retreat to be briefed on the needs for the next budget and beyond.

County staff said they think the upcoming budget for Fiscal Year 2023 will be more challenging than the last one. That’s in part because of inflation-related headaches along with revenue sources the county may not be able to count on in the future.

Public Safety

An ever-pressing concern residents and councilmembers alike keep pushing for is addressing the growing need for public safety.

The county’s new Emergency Operations Center is slated to be ready for the next hurricane season, with an expected completion of March 2022.

The county also just recently closed on a location for the newly planned Central Coast Complex, which leaders wanted to be situated in Carolina Forest. It will be located on Hinson Drive behind the McLeod Regional Medical Center off International Drive.

The building will hold a new precinct for the Horry County Police Department. Barry Spivey, the assistant county administrator for administration, said it is in the design process for the building, and the project entails two components: building a new structure but also renovating the Olin Blanton Building.

Some council members were worried Thursday about the Carolina Forest location having flooding issues, and wanted to make sure that wouldn’t be an issue. County staff said a stormwater system is in place and that the location was upland property.

When looking into the future of public safety needs, county staff listed out dozens of requested positions and equipment for public safety enhancement for the future.

“It’s just worse and worse, each and every day. Each and every day,” Randy Webster, Assistant County Administrator for Public Safety, said about the response times in the growing area. “So we’re trying to address a lot of that as we move forward.”

The wish list includes civilian crime scene technicians, detectives, environmental patrol officers and more with a price tag of nearly $20 million.

“Realistically, we need it all today, but because of our growth has now exceeded anybody’s expectations,” said District 2 councilman Bill Howard. “That being said, we need a plan presented to us immediately so we can start working that plan. It might take four or five years to figure out how to get the money, and hopefully we don’t have to raise taxes to do it.”

County staff said they are working on a prioritized list for the coming years.

Impact Fees

County officials also provided an update on the revenue being made by the recently-enacted impact fees. The fees were put into place in July but went into effect in mid-October. The fees apply to new construction, both residential and commercial, and will be used towards capital projects in the realm of public safety, parks and recreation, and waste management.

In the span of about a month and a half, county staff reported they had collected $670,000 for assessed builds - the majority of them being residential. District 1 (the Little River area) and District 9 (the Loris area) paid the most fees, indicative of the continued residential growth in these parts of the county. In total, the county issued more than 500 permits since mid-October.

Impact fees aren’t collected within city limits - only unincorporated parts of Horry County.

Councilmembers asked about what these numbers would have looked like if transportation-specific impact fees were collected, something council members had considered but elected not to add on until a possible later date due to the high immediate burden of cost.

County staff thought it would have been hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue.

County council made a verbal agreement that they would be bringing up the possibility of adding transportation fees in the next budget cycle.

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