Lazarus officially chairman of Horry County Council

04/30/2013 3:39 PM

05/01/2013 9:42 AM

MYRTLE BEACH Mark Lazarus’ path to the Horry County Council chairman seat is completed, and he’s ready to tackle the pressing matters of the county.

Unofficial results show 2,221 votes were cast in Tuesday’s general election, where Lazarus was the sole name on the ballot. He got 91 percent of the vote to 9 percent for write-in candidates.

Sandy Martin, director of Horry County Voter Registration, said there were 183 write-in candidates, but their names wouldn’t be known until Wednesday.

However, at least one name has been known for a few days. Vincent Lehotsky, a 2010 council chairman candidate, said Friday he’d run as a write-in candidate.

As for the small number of voters, Martin said there have been district elections with lower voter turnout, but this ranks as one of the lowest county-wide elections.

‘’When you only have one candidate on the ballot like this, it’s typically a low turnout,” Martin said.

That name was Lazarus, and now he’s officially the next chairman for Horry County Council whose biggest priority is fighting crime.

Lazarus said battling what he sees as a growing epidemic means sitting down with the Horry County police chief and sheriff during this current budget cycle to get a handle on just what they need to combat crime.

At Thursday’s public safety committee meeting, Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes said one request that eventually will be made is for another dog to sniff out explosive ordinance devices.

Rhodes said the office gets calls almost every single day requiring the bomb dog and bomb officer to go out and check on devices they may need to be exploded. Some of these, she added, are discovered on construction sites.

Lazarus’ focus is looking more at property crimes that he feels have risen since the economy became so rocky back in 2008.

“I don’t think it’s just here either,” he said.

Information from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting database, violent crimes for Horry County were at 943 in 2010 while property crimes were at 7,375.

Both numbers grew in 2011 to 1,060 and 7,643, respectively. Information for 2012 was not available.

Horry County Police Department is furthering its crime fighting efforts with a street crimes unit to combat burglaries, drug sales and gang activity.

Lazarus also wants to sit down with officials in the municipalities to discuss how they battle crime.

“We need to make sure we’re all working together,” he said.

Moving from one area of public safety to another, Lazarus is weighing in on the proposed 3.5 millage property tax increase to go toward funding staff and new equipment for Horry County Fire Rescue.

Lazarus’ swearing in ceremony is a few hours before the May 7 Horry County Council meeting. There, he said he will ask that a workshop be scheduled to include public input about the fire rescue fund.

“What does 3.5 mills really mean? What is it going to do for us, and who is it going to affect county wide?” Lazarus said.

Fire officials made their request at the recent spring budget retreat. They said the fire department’s at a crossroads and county needs to decide what type of service they want.

Chief Fred Crosby said if funding stays the same, the department is going to have to close stations. He also warned the county’s ISO rating would drop and residents’ insurance rates would go up.

The proposed millage increase would not impact residents living in municipalities like Myrtle Beach and Conway. The 3.5 mills equates to $14 for every $100,000 of assessed value of a person’s property.

Lazarus has faith in the fire service’s ability to protect Horry County residents. He sees the proposed tax increase as a way to replace aging equipment and get new boots on the streets.

Horry County currently has around 300 career firefighters and 192 volunteers.

To boost volunteerism, the county implemented a new training system allowing potential volunteer firefighters to do a lot of the course work at home on their computer instead of showing up for a class. Officials hope this will both make it easier on potential volunteers already working jobs to support families, and weed out those who aren’t as interested before investing a few thousand dollars each to train them.

“I don’t think we’ve really given that a chance to bear its fruit yet,” Lazarus said about the program.

With the special election now over, Lazarus can devote his time to these priorities.

He defeated fellow Republican hopeful and current County Council member Al Allen in a March 26 runoff election after neither secured more than 50 percent of the total vote in March 12’s primary election.

Lazarus advanced to Tuesday’s contest, which saw no Democratic challengers.

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