Horry Council candidates weigh in on issues

  • Thursday, June 5, 2014

Voters – including those in Georgetown and Horry counties – head to the polls Tuesday to make their choices known for contested partisan races statewide.

Locally, the race that has drawn the most candidates is for Horry County Council’s District 5 seat, with four Republicans – and no Democrats – seeking to replace Councilman Paul Price, who opted not to seek re-election.

Inlet Outlook asked attorney Reese Boyd III, retiree Chuck Ottwell, Tyler Servant, a broker-associate at Surfside Realty, and businessman Clif Smith questions that we think touch upon the upcoming issues that will face the county council in the coming four years.

Their responses follow:

How do we expand our focus beyond tourism, yet keep tourism, to bring jobs to the county?

Boyd: “Horry County is blessed to be a popular travel destination; tourism is a great industry for us. However, we should also pursue broader diversity through our economic development efforts. We should aim to have a number of industries that offer not just employment, but career options for our residents, right here in Horry County.”

Ottwell: “We need to attract environmentally safe businesses that will offer our workers an above-average wage. We do this by capitalizing on our most precious resource – our beaches.

We entice corporate executives to relocate to Horry County due to our beautiful beaches and abundance of golf courses and outstanding weather.”

Servant: “People want to vacation in a place they’d like to live. Attracting tourists and industry aren’t separate issues. Tourists want: easy travel to and from, to feel safe, to be surrounded by natural beauty and great entertainment. Industry that brings high-paying jobs feels the same way.”

Smith: “Tourism is vital to Horry County – in particular to Council District 5 – so we must continue to promote and foster tourism. At the same time, county council must make it attractive for manufacturers to locate in the county, particularly the western portion, by keeping taxes low and reducing red tape.”

How do we pay for needed roads – both new, as in the Southeastern Evacuation Lifeline – and repairing and replacing what we have?

Boyd: “We should continue Riding on a Penny. This allows visitors who use our roads to help pay for them. I’ll also work extremely hard to get federal and state money but for major projects like SELL. We’re going to have look at tolls, public-private partnerships and other options.”

Ottwell: “There are three ways to pay for roads; 1) through tax receipts, 2) toll roads, 3) public-private partnerships. SELL is desperately needed and should be implemented as soon as possible.

Without state or federal funds, we must consider a toll road or private-public partnership. We need to repair roads before we start building new roads.”

Servant: “We should secure funding in ways that pass a more equitable share of the burden on tourists.

Address the constant construction delays that cause allocated funds to accumulate as the cost of building and materials increase. Also, the almost never-ending fights with environmental organizations cost money and time.”

Smith: “I’m the only candidate in the race that has urged federal officials to give the Southern Evacuation Lifeline project a higher funding priority to reduce congestion and speed hurricane evacuations. Beyond the needed federal funding, revenue from RIDE III should be directed to the SELL.”

It seems as if communities are being asked to do more with less as federal and state funds are being cut back. How do we maintain what we have and even expand to maintain quality of life – and how do we pay for it?

Boyd: “It is imperative that your Council members ‘kick the tires’ hard on each new spending proposal, and get as much “bang for the buck” as we can for every dollar we spend. I’ll work to spend each dollar we spend as carefully as you spend your own! That should be our standard.

Ottwell: Although I am a fiscal conservative, I am also a realist. I realize that maintaining a higher quality of life does cost. As an accountant, I will scrutinize the County’s budget to eliminate waste and unnecessary spending. I estimate that at least $56 million can be saved annually and applied to quality of life programs.”

Servant: “I refuse to accept the theory that we only have two choices, raising revenue or cutting services. I seriously doubt that the Horry County Government operates without waste, duplication or inefficiency. My experience in the private sector will guide me as I work to maximize existing dollars.”

Smith: “Horry County’s budget is nearly $400 million. It’s important for council to scrutinize spending to ensure it’s necessary. With my background as a businessman who has met payrolls and budgets, I will look carefully at county spending and work to cut waste and ensure county services are delivered cost effectively.”

What makes you distinctive in this race?

Boyd: “My experience makes me an effective advocate. I was a legal counsel to Gov. Carroll Campbell; I have Washington experience on federal and state issues; I have worked for large companies and I have run my own small business. I served on the public charter school district, the boards of Palmetto Family Council and SC Club for Growth.”

Ottwell: “I have been an accountant for over 45 years. As a small-business owner. I know what it is like to operate within a budget, make a payroll and balance books. I know that we need more common-sense economic policies that eliminate needless county regulations, waste and spending.”

Servant: “Too many of our community’s best young people don’t return after college. I have a unique perspective on this decision. I want to work to create a quality of life expectation that will allow the next generation and generations to come to see returning home as a viable option.”

Smith: “I’m the only candidate in this race who has signed the SC Association of Taxpayers’ No-New-Tax Pledge, opposing any tax increases; called for federal officials to give the SELL a higher funding priority; and lived and worked in the district the longest – 35 years.”

What is the best and worst decision this council made in the past two years?

Boyd: “BEST: The adult oriented business ordinance, carefully drafted to pass constitutional muster, which protects the constitutional rights of all, but also helps preserve the ‘family friendly’ nature of our communities. WORST: The WestJet air service incentive, which resulted in a direct gift transfer of tax receipts to a private company.”

Ottwell: “The two best decisions were the funding of the Economic Development Commission and the appointment of Saundra Rhodes as police chief. The return on investment has been substantial on both decisions. The worst decision was the payment to WestJet of $551,000 in a revenue guarantee. I hope that County Council has learned from its mistake.”

Servant: “I am not in the business of second guessing decisions that others make based on information I don’t have access to. I prefer to talk about what I would do given a certain set of circumstances.”

Smith: “Worst – The decision to enter into a guaranteed revenue agreement with Canadian airline company WestJet, that will cost county taxpayers at least $600,000. One of the better decisions was to insist that Coast RTA be held more accountable for the expenditure of $1 million of Horry County taxpayers’ money.”

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