Plans for shift in Coast RTA power moving along

jrodriguez@thesunnews.comOctober 30, 2013 

— The move to give Horry County more of a say-so on the Coast RTA board – or at least one that will equal the amount of money it gives the transit annually – is picking up steam.

County Councilman Gary Loftus, who has been critical of the board’s current makeup, said now that Sen. Greg Hembree has had his hands on the plans to change state law that dictates how transit boards are made up, he feels better. The Coast RTA board met Wednesday, and Loftus said he wasn’t all too impressed with the progress.

“They took a survey,” he said after the meeting. “The only positive is Greg Hembree is getting involved. That’s very positive.”

Loftus and several other council members have been wanting Coast RTA to look at what it can do to add more representatives appointed by County Council to replace current members on the board. The move would give the county the upper hand on a Coast RTA board that makes final decisions on route cuts, the transit’s budget and hiring of upper management.

The county went as far as holding back more than $260,000 it promised the transit if it made a good faith effort in getting the makeup of the board changed. If the money was withheld permanently, it would have had a ripple effect on federal funding, cutting the transit’s $5 million annual budget by $600,000.

RTA officials, Loftus, Rep. Nelson Hardwick and others met in July and began a process to ask the S.C. Attorney General what needs to get done to place more Horry County representatives on the board. Specifically, Loftus would like to see the number of Horry County representatives mirror the percentage of funding. After those efforts, the county released the money to the RTA.

Myers Rollins, CEO of Coast RTA, said the effort is ongoing.

“I continue to reach out to members of our legislative delegation,” he said Wednesday. “I’ve spoken to Sen. Hembree over the past 30 days. He informs me that in regards to the county question, he personally submitted those to the Attorney General and expects an answer any time.”

Hembree could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Millage from county ‘just not enough

Rollins, Coast RTA board member Mickey James and others are starting to look at alternative funding to help the RTA operate on its $5 million.

Rollins said at the board meeting Wednesday that the .6 mill annually from the county budget as granted by the county through a 2010 advisory referendum is simply not enough.

“We just don’t have enough local funding,” Rollins told the board. “The sixth-tenths does not allow us to grow as a mass transit organization. It just won’t let us do it.”

He said the transit could go to the council and ask for more money, but will first look for alternative funding.

“One option, as I’ve said in the past, is to go back to County Council and say, ‘In hindsight, six-tenths is just not enough.’ ” Rollins said. “The alternative, I believe, is to roll up our sleeves and find new revenue. If we don’t we’re going to keep struggling the way we’re struggling.”

Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.

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