One fact became obvious early in the recent campaigns for Horry County Council: both the incumbents and the challengers agreed on the problems facing their respective districts.
Yes, they may have offered different treatments, but their diagnosis was the same.
Flooding has ravaged many local communities in recent years. There are constant calls for adding police officers and improving first responder pay. Surging growth continues to strain infrastructure and the demand for recreation programs has exceeded the county’s budget to pay for them.
On top of those challenges, we’re also still dealing with a global pandemic, one that has strangled the local economy and caused county officials to slash millions from their budget.
Strong leadership is critical now.
On Tuesday, Horry County voters agreed to keep all the county council incumbents on the ballot for four more years. The only change will be in the District 9 seat, which covers Loris and part of the Longs community. In that district, longtime councilman Paul Prince did not seek reelection.
During every campaign, there is always plenty of mudslinging, and there is a tendency for the sideshow of politics to overshadow discussions about important issues.
This one was no exception.
But regardless of how bitter the campaign was at times, the race is over and the voters have made their decision.
It’s time for council members to aggressively move forward in addressing the problems they talked about on the campaign trail.
Here are some proposals the council should consider:
• Relocation program: County leaders have discussed the possibility of a buyout program that would help flood victims move away from low-lying areas. Many neighborhoods that frequently flood, particularly those in Socastee and Conway, were built before the county’s zoning regulations and stormwater policies were in place. If county officials are serious about helping flood families, this type of program, which relies heavily on state and federal resources, is key.
• Recreation services: County officials must decide if this is a worthwhile expense. If so, they need to accept the responsibility of providing the promised level of services countywide, including building rec centers in the western part of the county. This would likely involve a tax increase, but it would be unfair for county officials to tax residents in the western areas of the county for recreation services that they limit to the eastern side. County officials should also look for private sector solutions to its recreation funding shortfall, including selling advertising and making concessions agreements to generate additional revenues.
• Slash the community benefit fund: We’ve argued this before, but the $240,000 that council members funnel to nonprofits each year would be better served paying for core services. Sure, this is a small amount in a budget that’s hundreds of millions of dollars. But it’s also symbolic, a rare moment where the government can cut obvious waste.
There are multiple other possible solutions, but our primary concern is that council members put aside petty political squabbles. It’s time for them to get serious about doing the job the voters have given them.