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      Coast RTA: Loss of Horry Co. funding would lead to layoffs, route cuts

      The Grand Strand's transit service says it may have to eliminate bus routes and lay off drivers if it doesn't get funding it expects from Horry County.

      County council is still deciding whether to give Coast RTA a little more than one million dollars for next year.

      Tony Gallon of Myrtle Beach rides the bus every day to his maintenance job at a local campground.

      If his usual bus route is eliminated, he's not sure what he'd do.

      "Oh man, I guess I'd have to get a scooter or something. That's the only other means of transportation around here," said Gallon.

      The Conway to Myrtle Beach route 7 that Gallon uses carries 100,000 passengers per year.

      But Coast RTA's interim general manager Julie Norton-Dew said the route may have to be cut if the bus service doesn't get the $1.05 million it expects from the county.

      She said bus company employees would also have to be laid off.

      "It could be as much as 50 to 60 percent overall reduction in jobs just to meet the budget," said Norton-Dew.

      Horry County provides 20 percent of the bus company's funding, but that money makes it possible for Coast RTA to get federal matching funds, so Norton-Dew said much more is at stake.

      She said timing is critical.

      "We need the funds immediately in July to continue at the same level of operations."

      But County Councilman Gary Loftus said the Coast RTA board should be just as concerned about how it plans to pay off the $324,000 it owes the state DOT for a failed bus shelter project.

      He said county council has already passed two readings of a budget that includes the million dollars in bus company funding. The final reading will be in two weeks.

      "To do anything drastic at this point in time is certainly premature, even though there's only 28 days until the end of the month, but that's 28 days," said Loftus.

      Norton-Dew said if the bus company doesn't get county funding, the job loss will include locals who rely on the bus service to get to work.

      Loftus said he doesn't think the county will leave Coast RTA hanging.

      The final vote on the county budget will be held June 17.

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