Collections for homeless may be coming to Myrtle Beach airport

Myrtle Beach officials have crossed one hurdle in their quest to place a donation container at Myrtle Beach International Airport to help with homeless issues along the Grand Strand.

Horry County’s administration committee voted favorably Friday to recommend placing the container at the airport, with one councilman, Harold Worley, voting against the idea because he feels it’s a form of panhandling.

The city merged three agencies – Street Reach, the Center for Women and Children, and Citizens Against Spousal Abuse – into New Directions of Horry County in the spring of 2013. They would be the recipient of the funds collected at the airport as well as change collected at four locations near the city’s boardwalk. Similar programs exist in cities like Denver, which reported it collected about $80,000 in its first year of allowing the donation containers. The airport would not be responsible for emptying the container, just allowing it to be in the airport.

Worley said he worries the containers will be seen as “begging.”

“I’d hate to be a party pooper, but I’d rather just give them $3,000 from somewhere,” Worley told the committee. “I’m willing for us to appropriate some additional funds so that we don’t have to put these, whatever they want to put, in the terminal. I don’t feel good about it. I think it’s begging. It’s panhandling.”

Councilman Marion Foxworth said he had some reservations about the idea, but supported it in the end.

“I share some of their reservations, but I think the airport is sort of unique because of going through screening, people having change in their hand,” Foxworth said.

The argument is that when people are passing through the security checkpoint in the airport, they empty their pockets. So, instead of them placing the loose change from their pockets into a property bin to be collected after going through the X-Ray machine, travelers would have the option to place the change in a donation container.

One argument was that other charities would want to do something similar, but Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said since New Directions was taking the initiative to come up with this plan on their own, he doesn’t see other charities having a valid argument.

“I think they thought outside the box. They didn’t come here with their hand out,” Lazarus said. “They came up with a solution and it’s just us giving them a little help.”

In fact, Lazarus applauded New Directions efforts to buck the trend of coming to the council seeking a hand out.

“The problem we’re having, and we’re seeing it building more and more, the more we keep give money out of our [recreation] funds and the more we keep giving to organizations, the more we get them lined up here,” Lazarus said. “This is an organization that came up with an idea to not have to come in here and ask for our tax dollars to give to their organization.

“They were the first ones to come to the table and ask it. It was their idea.”

Horry County Council will vote on it later this month before a final decision is made.

John Pedersen, assistant city manager for Myrtle Beach, said he was pleased with the positive recommendation to the full council.

“We really appreciate the county, at this point, considering it,” Pedersen said. “This is just another example of cooperation that really points toward a solution.”

Conway gets approval for old museum building

Conway officials are one step closer to bringing a business incubator to town now that the county’s administration committee voted favorably to donate the former museum building at Fifth Avenue and Main Street for the project.

The measure still must go before the full County Council for three readings.

The building, erected in 1935, must maintain its architectural integrity and must be for public use, according to the proposed ordinance to hand the building over to the city.

Conway is working with staff at Coastal Carolina University, Horry-Georgetown Technical College and Clemson University to bring the incubator to Conway. This location would be the fourth of five planned incubators associated with a three-year Clemson pilot program called Technology Villages.