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Taxes: Panel member chides council over spending on Waccamaw Neck

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Jerry Crosby told members of Georgetown County Council this week the Waccamaw Neck is getting too big a share of accommodations tax collections.

Crosby, a new member of the county Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee recommended by Chairman Johnny Morant, said he had heard that applications for anything on the western side of the bridges get the ax. “It’s a true statement,” Crosby said.

He told council advisory committee actions over the past 10 years had been very thorough, but the council had disregarded the advice on numerous occasions. Between 2004 and 2009, the county distributed $3.25 million in accommodations taxes with 8 percent going to Georgetown and the western part of the county. In the past five years, $4.25 million has been distributed with 1 percent going west of the bridges.

Crosby said the idea that funds had to be spent where they were collected is not entirely true. They must be spent primarily in the geographic area, he said. “The legislature recognizes there has to be some flexibility,” he said. “The statute does not prevent you from recognizing this side.” The council’s actions to distribute $223,000 must have pleased Crosby. With the exception of moving $1,010 from a church historical marker to the Bassmasters fishing tournament entertainment budget, the council went along with the advisers’ recommendations.

Tourism marketing was granted $173,800. Litchfield Beautification Foundation got $11,500 and Pawleys Island Highway Beautification got $10,000. Litchfield Beaches Property Owners got $2,488 to monitor security cameras. The rest went west of the bridges: $10,000 to the Harbor Historical Association for the S.C. Maritime Museum; $6,010 for the Georgetown Business Association for Bassmasters entertainment; $5,000 to the Mitney Project for a Gullah and gospel festival; and $3,000 to the Georgetown School of the Arts and Sciences for a Shakespeare festival. The only item eliminated from the advisers’ list was $1,010 to Oak Grove United Methodist Church for a marker commemorating its 125th anniversary.

The advisory committee did not recommend granting a request from Midway Fire and Rescue for a $29,000 rescue boat and trailer and $11,000 for two emergency medical service bicycles. Midway Chief Doug Eggiman said the boat would support the department’s ability to respond to rescue emergencies in all bodies of water. He said it’s a challenge to respond to marsh and creek areas and flood waters where there is limited depth, obstacles and poor access. Midway responders used ocean craft during last month’s flood to rescue a man whose truck had been washed off a highway west of Georgetown. They found the truck submerged off Highway 17A and the driver clinging to a tree in raging water.

Eggiman said the bicycles and medical equipment requested would be used to work crowds like the Pawleys Island July 4 parade and Brookgreen Gardens’ Nights of a Thousand Candles.

The advisory committee had $222,300 in tax receipts to disperse and $370,800 in requests.

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