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RIDE III road work gets a jump start

jblackmon@thesunnews.com

County officials plan on getting a jump start on road construction projects approved by voters under RIDE III by using a surplus of funding banked for ongoing RIDE II projects.

Collection of the one percent sales taxes won’t begin until May or delivered into county coffers until the fall, but by borrowing up to $40 million, the work can begin as soon as the county council approves a budget amendment early next year.

Justin Powell told the county’s Administration Committee Tuesday that officials could instead borrow the money from a bank, but the interest would cost more than $1 million.

The county expects to collect $70 million from RIDE III taxes in the first year, and could pay back the funds within the first six months, Powell said.

“Whenever you get it, just make sure you put it back,” said Councilman Harold Worley, chairman of the Administration Committee.

If the full council approves the budget amendment, the borrowed money will be used to pay for right-of-way purchases, engineering and design work, and permitting costs.

“That’s not going to stop International Drive, all the money is there,” said Mark Lazarus, Horry County Council chairman. “All we’re going to do is front the money to get the front work done on RIDE III.”

Under the ongoing RIDE II referendum passed by voters, surplus money goes into the general fund, whereas a future RIDE III surplus would have to be spent on road projects.

RIDE II collections were higher than anticipated, and the council has already spent $16 million of that to replace the county’s aging radio system.

When RIDE II is completed, Lazarus said the county council has committed to spending the $46 million in expected excess funding on road projects.

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson

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