Rather than renovate an aging Myrtle Beach facility, Horry County leaders are considering building a government complex in Carolina Forest.

The county’s five-year building plan calls for officials to begin replacing or renovating their 21sth Avenue North office in 2021. When county officials meet for their budget retreat next week, they will discuss the possibility of a new hub near the intersection of S.C. 31 and International Drive.

“It puts us smack in the middle,” councilman Johnny Vaught said, pointing out the county has satellite offices on the North Strand and South Strand.

County officials have been talking about replacing the Myrtle Beach facility for six years. That building holds satellite offices for the treasurer, auditor and assessor, as well as the S.C. Department of Social Services and magistrate’s court.

But county leaders hope they can secure enough land to not only construct a facility for those offices, but possibly find enough space for a fifth police precinct. Adding an EMS station has also been discussed. 

Should the county pursue a Carolina Forest complex, officials would likely sell the Myrtle Beach property and put the proceeds toward the new building. 

Councilman Dennis DiSabato, whose district covers parts of Myrtle Beach and Carolina Forest, said one question mark for the project is the amount of hospitality funding that county officials will have available for public safety improvements.

County leaders wanted to spend up to $18 million in hospitality fees upgrading police, fire and EMS services, but they don’t know how much money they will have to spend now that officials in Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach have begun dismantling their fee sharing structure. 

“A lot of it’s going to depend on what we see we have for public safety enhancements,” DiSabato said. “I don’t want to say that they go hand in hand, but they certainly will go together if we have the availability to build.”

The county hired an architectural firm to study their facility needs in the central coastal region and council members expect to discuss those results at their budget retreat.

Although no site has been selected, county officials favor the northern side of Carolina Forest because of the area’s proximity to major thoroughfares. S.C. 31 runs from the North Strand to the southern end of the county and offers connections to U.S. 501 and S.C. 22. International Drive links to S.C. 90.

“It just made sense to move the entire facility in that area,” DiSabato said.

While discussions about a Carolina Forest complex are still preliminary, Vaught said there’s growing support on council for the change.

“We are very settled on putting it out there at the end of International Drive,” he said. “We’re feeling real strong about that. It’s in the middle and accessible to everywhere.”

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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I'm the editor of myhorrynews.com and the Carolina Forest Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Horry County, South Carolina. I cover county government, the justice system and agriculture. Know of a story that needs to be covered? Call me at 843-488-7236.

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