Movement toward adding more Horry County representatives on the Coast RTA board began last week, but whether that effort is enough for the County Council to release more than $260,000 in funding to the transit will be decided Tuesday.
RTA officials, County Councilman Gary Loftus, Rep. Nelson Hardwick and others met last week 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.
“I just want to make sure that we’re making progress,” Loftus said. “It’s all about being fair.”
County officials asked RTA CEO Myers Rollins at the beginning of the year to make a good faith effort to try and increase the number of Horry County representatives on the RTA board. If not, the council contended, it would withhold the fourth-quarter payment of more than $260,000. In June, councilmen voted to withhold the money because some believe an effort wasn’t made.
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That sent the RTA’s budget in a whirl, prompting talks of route cuts, staff reductions and continued hiring freezes. Specifically, 26 operations positions, two maintenance positions and five administrative positions would be eliminated from the 87-person staff. The smaller budget also would continue the hiring freeze for five positions currently frozen because of budget constraints, which include the director of marketing, human resources manager and an accountant. The RTA’s Entertainment Express and airport routes will be eliminated as early as October if the funding does not get reinstated, and Coast’s on-demand route will be shortened from 12 hours per day to six.
For now, Coast had to submit a budget to the Federal Transit Authority that is about $600,000 less than the initial $5 million proposed because about $340,000 was contingent on Coast receiving full payment from the county.
Loftus said the question gathering, which will be completed by Friday is a good start, but there’s still plenty of work to get done.
“I’m not talking about just adding members. I’m talking about total restructuring,” he said.
Loftus said there are several transit authorities throughout the state that are structured differently than what the law allows, so he thinks talking with legislators will help clear the air for what Horry County and Coast RTA can do.
Council Chairman Mark Lazarus referred to the meeting RTA and county officials had last week as “positive moves” toward getting more county representation on the board, which his why he is supporting the move to release the funding to Coast RTA.
“I felt that in good faith, they are moving toward what we had asked of them,” he said. “I’m going to put this resolution forward that states on a quarterly basis, Mr. Rollins will be reporting to the administrative committee and then to the council to give us a little more communication with them.”
Lazarus said he envisions the additional members on the board will not be elected officials, but appointees similar to what the county does for the airport advisory board.
“I think we’re moving in a very positive direction,” he said.