Horry County Council open to negotiating with cities, towns over tourism taxes

Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County wants to negotiate with the mayors of cities and towns that want to keep their share of tourism taxes.

County council is trying to fund police and fire departments, along with road upgrades and the planned Interstate 73. Getting all that money will be tougher, after Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach decided to keep accommodations and hospitality taxes.

That ends the practice of giving the county a piece of those funds.

“Looking at this hospitality fee as just an I-73 issue is a little short-sighted,” said Dennis DiSabato, a council member representing Myrtle Beach. “It can fund roads in Horry County for the next 100 years.”

Horry County is now open to cutting a deal with cities and towns.

“We can fund our public safety, they can fund their public safety and whatever else they want to do, and we can also have I-73,” said Harold Worley, a council member representing North Myrtle Beach.

Johnny Vaught, a council member representing the Forestbrook area, says funding for police officers and firefighters should be a priority in any negotiation.

“Make sure that whatever we work out, we preserve $10 million a year for public safety,” said Vaught.

Council unanimously voted Monday to delay leaving a funding agreement with the state Department of Transportation. In July, council agreed to give SCDOT up to $25 million a year towards I-73.

Council chair Johnny Gardner says he wants to meet with mayors over the next few weeks.

“We don’t want to just outright cancel it right now if we have a chance to bring everybody together, negotiate and talk about what’s good for everybody,” Gardner said.

County administrator Chris Eldridge’s employment was also scheduled for a vote Monday. It comes about three months after Eldridge asked SLED to investigate claims of an extortion attempt against one of Gardner’s associates, but no charges were filed.

Gardner canceled Monday’s vote, saying Eldridge’s lawyer called him to work out a deal for a severance package.

Gardner says he hopes it can be resolved in about two weeks.

“We’re going to give that process a chance and we think that’s the best way to handle it,” he said.

Gardner says an interim replacement for Eldridge would likely come from within the county, before a permanent administrator is hired.

As for the SCDOT agreement, county council could revisit leaving it on April 16.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.