Seemingly out of the blue, a member of the Atlantic Beach town council spoke at a session of the Horry County Council and declared it’s time to consider dissolving Atlantic Beach or merging with the city of North Myrtle Beach.
Atlantic Beach Mayor Jake Evans responded a day later with “what Carolyn Cole says is solely her own opinion and what she feels.’’
Cole is the same councilwoman who is part of a lawsuit settlement with the Tyson Beach Group that costs the town $7,763.20 a month. This month, the S.C. State Ethics Commission is scheduled to hear charges related to the settlement. The allegations before the commission are that Cole used her office to obtain economic interest for herself, including signing checks to herself.
At the County Council, Cole spoke of the Atlantic Beach Landowners Association, saying “we are seriously contemplating consolidation.’’ Really. Who and how many are “we?” The association has no standing in the town’s governance. S.C. Rep. Tracy Edge, whose district includes Atlantic Beach and who has followed Atlantic Beach developments for years, says the association is “a creature in name only.’’
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For the record and edification of Atlantic Beach residents, elected officials and others recognize that the issues go beyond the small town, dissolving a town, or merging with another entity, is not easily done. Here’s the applicable S.C. law:
“If a majority of the registered electors of a municipality files a petition requesting the municipal certificate be surrendered with the municipal council, the council shall order an election to determine the question, at which election all qualified electors of the municipality must be permitted to vote, and if two-thirds of those voting vote in favor of surrendering the certificate, the council shall certify the result to the Secretary of State, who shall cancel the certificate issued to the municipality.’’
The political machinations in Atlantic Beach have been beyond understanding. Surely, many residents -- not to mention other citizens in neighboring communities -- are fed up with their town government. Let’s be clear: Carolyn Cole is one of the officials who has tried the patience of electors. Cole is out of power, or at least in the minority vote on the council, so she goes to the County Council to talk about dissolving the town or merging with North Myrtle Beach.
It may be just a red herring, an attempt to confuse efforts for changes she does not want but which the town surely needs. It’s certainly a distraction the town does not need. Being part of North Myrtle Beach likely is no more popular with Atlantic Beach folks than it was years ago when North Myrtle was formed from unincorporated communities (Cherry Grove, Ocean Drive, Windy Hill, Crescent Beach) and Atlantic Beach voters opted out.
Edge hears from Atlantic Beach folks and says “more people seem to be in line with the idea that we’ve had enough -- it’s time to [stop the nonsense and] move on.’’ Edge says he’s felt “once Jake was able to [take office], things would stabilize.’’ Edge also says the re-appointed town manager, William Booker, “by himself, is the best catalyst for change.’’ One of the disruptions was the abrupt dismissal of Booker, who was making progress in putting the town on track.
What if, Edge asks, in recent years “Atlantic Beach had [experienced] stability instead of in-fighting?’’ That’s a question residents might direct to Cole and others.
It is not the time for the town to pursue dissolution. We agree with Edge, who says: “Now I think we’re back to asking people for patience.’’
We just hope that patience will be rewarded for those who live, work and pay taxes in the town, and for the rest of us who have grown impatient with ongoing feuds and disruptions that have caused unnecessary countywide tax expenses.