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Coast RTA financial plan calls for service to North Myrtle Beach, increased local funding

A COAST RTA bus waits at the Myrtle Beach transfer center.
A COAST RTA bus waits at the Myrtle Beach transfer center. MyrtleBeachOnline.com file photo

Increased local funding, bus service to North Myrtle Beach and a $4 million new central office closer to Myrtle Beach are in Coast RTA’s five-year financial plan it is sending to the federal government this week.

The plan is part of a triennial report the Federal Transit Administration wanted Coast to draft in 2014 after it cited the agency for not having a plan.

Coast hired a firm in 2013 for about $10,000 to derive a financial plan. The result of that consultation simply showed Coast RTA needed to increase its budget from $5 million annually to nearly $20 million, which could not be accomplished.

The full triennial review showed inadequate financial and maintenance planning, and that it retained useless buses for too long. New Coast RTA CEO Brian Piascik has already started the process of removing buses. Of the 17 areas the FTA examines every three years, it found Coast was compliant in six areas and had 11 deficiencies. The deficiencies ranged from not having an existing financial plan or vehicle maintenance plan to failing to submit required reports on time and having three buses sit unused for long periods of time.

The five-year plan calls for more local funding from its current sources and new ones. The plan asks Conway to increase its contribution from $5,000 annually to $15,000 in fiscal year 2017. It also calls for the cities of Georgetown and North Myrtle Beach to begin contributing in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

“Those are all going to be things that we’re going to try and go after,” Piascik said. “Even though there’s some funding that is not currently available, it’s reasonably available. If we play our cards right, I think we can get to it.”

North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley could not be reached for comment.

The last time service to North Myrtle Beach was discussed was in 2010, but Coast then decided to yank plans for the route because of a reduction in funding.

However, a few thousand dollars from local agencies is not going to create this influx of surplus money, Piascik said.

“If we were to flat line all of our funding, and all of our local funding would stay right where they’re at over the next five years, we would start going into the red in [fiscal year 20]19...,” Piascik said. “We would be forced to reduce service or try to find funding somewhere else.”

His plan includes moving Coast’s headquarters from Conway to somewhere closer to Myrtle Beach, which Piascik estimates will save the agency about $250,000 annually in gas and labor costs. It would come with about a $4 million price tag, and Coast would work with federal and state agencies to secure funding for the purchase.

Piascik said money from the sale of its Third Avenue property in Conway, which already has an interested buyer, would also be used for the move.

“To me, I don’t think starting [fiscal year 20]18 in a new facility is really that unreasonable,” Piascik said.

For Bernie Silverman, chairman of the Coast board, hearing about a new facility and extending services into a place like North Myrtle Beach was music to his ears because he was used to hearing how Coast struggles with funding.

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” Silverman said after Piascik presented the plan to the board last week.

Piascik said the plan also calls for more contributions to Coast’s operations and maintenance reserve, and said the plan is likely to change a bit.

“It’ll change many times over the course of the next five years,” Piascik said. “Eventually we’ll probably try to do something that plans out 10 years.”

Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or on Twitter @TSN_JRodriguez.

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