Chamber board votes to use tourism tax funds for police next Memorial Day weekend

Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, addressing the Board of Directors during a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted unanimously Tuesday to divert some of the hospitality tax funds they receive to help law enforcement next Memorial Day weekend.

The chamber will work with local and state officials to amend the chamber's budget and redirect accommodations tax revenues and other tourism promotion funds to hire more law enforcement for May 2015, according to a news release sent after the meeting.

This move would come from two provisos that would need to be passed by the general assembly.

One of the proposals would impact funds from the Department of Revenue and the accommodations tax fund, the other would impact funds from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and the destination specific funds.

The measure would reassign the use of the money. If both measures are passed it could bring up to $3 million.

But, they would have to be acted upon very quickly as South Carolina is finalizing its budget for 2015.

Dean said during the meeting that they need more law enforcement and outside expertise to mange crowds on Memorial Day weekend, and that there needs to be a unified task force that includes state and local resources.

"We as a community must find ways to combat this problem and ensure that this type of lawlessness will no longer be tolerated. That is going to require a substantial increase in law enforcement" said Dean in the news release.

He said if they allow money or lack thereof to dictate safety then "shame on us."

"This isn't a simple solution but it's a very clear problem that we need to solve and you're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem. So we stepped up today to be part of that solution and to take the money question off the table," he Dean said. "Now we're looking to our elected officials at our local and state level to say what we can use this money for to solve this problem next year."

The chamber may have to reduce promotions of the area in some markets as a result of this move.

But Dean said "safety has to come first and clearly Memorial Day weekend every year, our visitors and residents are not safe and secure."

"In this instance, we are choosing to do our part to help stop criminals and felons from putting a damper on what should be a weekend to celebrate our military heroes, and serve as the kickoff to the summer vacation season," he said in the release.

Dean said he hopes that other business organizations and community-based groups will join the chamber's effort, including the Town of Atlantic Beach.

"It is my opinion that Atlantic Beach should be part of the solution, not part of the problem. But we can't wait on Atlantic Beach to try to solve this issue for ourselves," he said. "It's my hope that other organizations, including Atlantic Beach, will come on board and be part of the team to end the chaos on Memorial Day weekend."

This discussion comes in the wake of this year's violence over that weekend, which is also the weekend of the Atlantic Beach Bikefest.

This year there were 5 shootings in Myrtle Beach where police said they found victims, including one shooting where three people were killed at Bermuda Sands. There were 8 shootings in all.

Dean was one of the first area officials to respond to the weekend of violence.

Stay with CarolinaLive for more updates on this story as they develop.