kick the can

On the heels of the decision to cancel an agreement with the S.C. Department of Transportation to help pay for I-73, Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner released a statement to the press that sheds light on the difficult decision to withdraw from the project.

Gardner put the blame for the decision squarely on municipalities in Horry County. Most of them have refused to let the county collect the $43.7 million generated annually by the 1.5 percent hospitality fee.

“The sole reason council came to the conclusion that the agreement needed to be canceled was, per the terms of that agreement, Horry County was committed to providing annual funds to SCDOT that it will not have.

“Mayor Brenda Bethune issued a statement that the Myrtle Beach City Council ‘remains resolute’ in its support of I-73 but the city has not committed any funding to the project to date,” said the council chairman.

Gardner also took a swipe at Congressman Tom Rice.

“Rep. Tom Rice called our decision an ‘awful shame.’ He said he works on the I-73 project every day. However, the little funding the federal government has provided over the last 30 years has been used primarily for work and purchase of rights of way in counties other than Horry,” said Gardner. “While vocally supporting I-73, our legislative delegation has not brought any funding to the table.”

I’d have to agree with the chairman on this point. I’m not sure why Horry County is expected to pay for I-73 when the road will benefit the state and the nation.

I certainly don’t think citizens in Lexington, Richland and Charleston counties were asked to pay for interstates going through their county lines.

South Carolina’s congressional delegation simply has not produced for I-73 in a substantial fashion.

That’s why I also agree with the chairman when he says Horry County shouldn’t foot the bill for I-73.

“What Horry County Council said with its vote last night is the county cannot be the only government committing long term funding to the project. We can’t build the road ourselves,” said Gardner.

“If they are really serious about building I-73, it is now time for the other government representatives to step up and provide firm appropriations for funding the project.

“Horry County is willing to do its part, but it cannot do it all. The time for talk is over. If the road is to be built, it is now time for the federal government, the state government, the other county governments who will benefit from the project and the municipal governments who will also benefit to step up and do their part.”

We haven’t heard the last of I-73. The S.C. General Assembly is likely to take up the matter when it reconvenes. Perhaps legislation can break the political logjam.

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Steve Robertson is owner and publisher of the Waccamaw Publishers family of community newspapers

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