Horry County plans to create an advisory group for the planned RIDE III road project as a way to give local city officials more of a voice in what Horry County councilmen will vote on to place on a proposed 2016 sales tax referendum.
But Councilman Marion Foxworth fears doing it this way instead of the way the county did it for RIDE II, with more public input, would be “sewing the seeds for an opposition group.”
RIDE III will be the county’s third coordinated effort to draft a road improvement plan and local funding mechanism to fund the improvements. The county is at the tail end of RIDE II, which, once completed, will have completed 15 road projects totaling $425 million.
County Administrator Chris Eldridge said the advisory group would consist of planning directors, public works directors, and other public officials from area municipalities. They would take a look at the more than 80 leftover projects that were not used in the 2006 RIDE II referendum where voters approved to spend $425 million from a one-cent sales tax, which is set to expire at the end of this month.
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Eldridge said that advisory group would then pass its findings and recommendations on to a six-person commission made up of three members from the Horry County League of Cities and three members appointed by the Horry County Council. That commission’s recommendation would then go to the full County Council for approval before it is brought to voters for another one-cent sales tax referendum, which county officials anticipate will be in 2016.
“We have to stress to them that everybody’s not going to get everything they want, but we need everybody on board,” Eldridge told the council at its retreat late last week. “We can’t have municipalities voting to have resolutions coming out against a RIDE III. Everybody needs to be on board. We need to tell them that you still have to come up with a slate of projects that this County Council would approve of or it doesn’t fly.”
Eldridge said it won’t be like the advisory group will be starting from scratch.
“There are a lot of projects sitting out there already that weren’t funded in RIDE II,” he said.
The difference this time, however, is municipalities want more of a voice on the projects that are put before the voters than they did in RIDE II.
Foxworth said this process mirrors the county’s first attempt at RIDE I where, he said, people felt there was not enough public opinion.
“The feeling on the street was that didn’t allow for enough public input,” Foxworth said. “The big projects were chosen in a back, smoke-filled room without anybody from the community having input.”
Councilman Gary Loftus, who chaired the first RIDE committee, said he disagreed with Foxworth’s opinion of public perception and that there were plenty of opportunities for public input in the first RIDE project.
Foxworth said by going the advisory group way instead of forming a committee, which the county did for RIDE II, could upset more people based on the approved and non-approved projects.
“I think you’re sewing the seeds for an opposition group,” Foxworth said.