Green laser ordinance heading back to Horry County Council

CONWAY, S.C. (WPDE) - An ordinance regulating the sale and use of green laser pointers is headed back to Horry County Council after being reviewed by the Public Safety Committee Thursday evening. The group voted to send it to full council with no recommendations.

The lasers are widely available on the Grand Strand and officials say just this summer alone there were 70 reported incidents of aircraft being hit by green lasers near Myrtle Beach International Airport. Their misuse has led to problems for the U.S. Coast Guard when trying to perform rescues.

"They were considering stopping rescue operations at night off the Grand Strand Coast because of the volume of these green laser hits and the danger it presented to their pilots," explained Paul Whitten, Public Safety Director. He went on to say the lasers are a "present danger."

The proposed ordinance would limit the sale of green lasers to minors, if a business sells a laser to a minor they'll face penalties, and when adults purchase lasers they'll have to sign a waiver that spells out the rules.

Whitten added, "The key is that we need to take some action."

Another hot item on the agenda, the cost of the bike rallies. Whitten showed the committee how much the Harley Davidson Rally and Atlantic Beach Bike Fest cost the county. After adding in the money made from vendor permits and other sources, both rallies still cost the county roughly $183,000.

That didn't sit well with councilman Brent Schulz. "We've been waiting for those numbers for a long time. So all we can do is bring it back up as a council because we can't afford those kinds of losses."

Also up for discussion, additional staff for J. Reuben Long Detention Center. In February, the sheriff's office signed a contract with the U.S. Marshal's Service to house up to 128 inmates facing federal charges.

The county receives just over $50 per day for each inmate. Sheriff Thompson says they need two extra transportation deputies and two vans.

"We transport them to court. Usually it's in Florence the biggest majority of the time. And they pay per diem for the officers to go which is 15 dollars and 22 cents an hour for the deputies' time," Thompson explained. "A lot of the cases that they're hearing in Florence generate out of Horry County. It's good to have that bed space here."

Full council must approve the extra deputies for the detention center. Sheriff Thompson is hopeful they will since it won't cost the county any extra money. He said housing federal inmates has already generated $145,000 in revenue.