Neighborhood services division aims to improve quality of life for Myrtle Beach residents

Myrtle Beach will soon take a more streamlined approach to dealing with resident issues after City Council earlier this year put a renewed emphasis on improving the quality of life for city residents.

Myrtle Beach officials created a neighborhood services division made of a three-person group that will work with representatives from city departments to resolve residents’ issues. The group will focus on what have been identified as “challenging communities,” including Booker T. Washington, Harlem, Ramsey Acres and Withers Swash neighborhoods.

“The purpose is to bridge the gap between the city and the residents,” said neighborhood services staff member Tim McCray. “For years there’s been a focus on crime through neighborhood watches, but this is for quality of life issues ... if there needs to be tree trimming or there’s a pot hole or light out in the neighborhood.”

The group’s goal is to have a more “organized, focused, proactive and sustained effort” to address quality-of-life issues.

To accomplish that, the group – comprised of McCray, Edna Wright and April Johnson – will on Thursday host a meeting with representatives from public works, construction services, fire, police, human resources, planning, sports tourism, risk management and purchasing to open the lines of communication.

“We’re going to come together as a team and talk about how we’ll be working together,” McCray said. “And to make sure we know who to contact with what issues.”

City Manager John Pedersen said that because the city seems to be approaching better days economically and financially, it’s important to make sure the neighborhoods with a more “moderate income” improve as well.

“We’re working with all neighborhoods, but the focus will be on the neighborhoods that we’re calling the more challenging communities,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen said the neighborhood services task force meetings will be modeled after the special events technical review committee, where representatives from all of the city’s impacted departments meet in one room to look at issues from all perspectives.

“Each of our departments probably see issues in the neighborhoods differently,” he said. “It’s going to be a more internal discussion ... so we can collectively try to resolve these issues.”

McCray said residents who need issues addressed are asked to call 918-1062 and leave a message. Someone from neighborhood services will get back to them within 72 hours.

“That’s important to us,” he said. “To continue the city’s ‘first in service’ [motto].”

For the past few months, neighborhood services representatives have attended all of the city’s neighborhood watch groups, but while McCray said tamping down crime in troubled neighborhoods will improve quality of life, he said there’s more to it.

“We go to the 23 neighborhood watch meetings but there are more neighborhoods in the city than that,” he said, adding that the group will start trying to connect with all city residents. “This task force will make it a citywide initiative addressing the issues.”

While the meeting is open to the public, it is not a public forum, city spokesman Mark Kruea said.

“But we’re not closing the doors,” Pedersen said. “The public is welcome to attend and speak if they like.”

The task force meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the first-floor conference room at City Hall, 937 Broadway St. in Myrtle Beach.

Maya T. Prabhu: 843-444-1722, @TSN_mprabhu