The Coast RTA board of directors voted Wednesday to expand its membership to 11 to include more Horry County-appointed members, a move that should give the county more control of the transit, but not as much as one councilman wanted.
Beginning in January, the Coast board will grow from nine members to 11 to accommodate a request made in 2012 by Horry County Council members as a way to account for the $1.05 million it gives Coast annually. That figure, by far, is greater than any other local municipality that contributes to the operations of the transit agency, and up until Wednesday’s vote, the council still had one appointee to the board, like all other contributors.
Gary Loftus, a Coast board member and Horry County Council member, started the expansion discussion with former CEO/General Manager Myers Rollins in 2012. The lack of initial progress prompted the Horry County Council to withhold the fourth-quarter payment to Coast, forcing the agency to pass an austerity budget.
Coast began meeting with legislators who said state law would have to be changed in order to add more representation. But, Sen. Greg Hembree discovered Coast can change its bylaws to allow for more representation based on population rather than financial contribution.
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A few months later, Rollins and Coast officials made progress and the council released that money.
Loftus said Wednesday he would like to have had the Coast board add three more county-appointed members, as opposed to the proposed two, so it would get closer to coinciding with the ratio of service population in the county and representation on the board.
“We’d like to have at least two more members, but we’d like more,” Loftus said, before trying to amend the initial motion of adding two more members. Loftus later rescinded his amendment, and the resolution passed 6-1 with board member Ivory Wilson voting against the change.
“I don’t know why the county wants more members,” Wilson said after the meeting. “The more members we have on the board, the more problems we’re going to have... I think we have enough members on the board.”
About 64 percent of Coast’s service area is in unincorporated Horry County. Loftus said he would like to see county appointees make up two-thirds of the board, but realizes other municipalities like Myrtle Beach and Georgetown County need representation.
Coast’s board is made up of nine members from communities as far north as Little River and as far south as Georgetown. Its $5 million budget is comprised of contributions from federal and state grants as well as local contributions from the county, Myrtle Beach, Conway and Georgetown County. Representation is reflective of communities with more than 5,000 people in Coast’s service area.
Mark Lazarus, chairman of the Horry County Council, said after the meeting he plans to bring up whether the two additional members will be council members or members of the public to the full council at its fall budget retreat Nov. 14.
“If anybody has any string suggestions toward it, then we’ll go that way,” Lazarus said. “It’ll probably be maybe another council member and then a citizen who understands public transportation.”