'Marshwalk' businesses turn down firework compromise for new fire station

A funding shortage and a lack of state legislative support have prevented the Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District from building a new fire station.

State lawmakers passed a bill this year that would raise property taxes an average of $25 to get that money.

Last month, Governor Nikki Haley vetoed the bill and said it would set a precedent of allowing a district to increase taxes without voter approval. Now for the tax increase to happen, lawmakers will have to override that veto.

State Representative Stephen Goldfinch, Jr., who represents Georgetown and Charleston Counties, has been against a tax increase.

However, he said he would support a tax hike if business owners along the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk would restrict their weekly firework shows on Monday nights during the summer.

Instead, the shows would be limited to three holidays.

Goldfinch said he has been getting complaints from some of his constituents about the show, and this legislation would be a compromise.

"People of the Inlet want a reduction of fireworks, and they want the increased millage. And, if there's a way to get both of them, I think this is a good way," Goldfinch said.

However, Al Hitchcock, who owns a business on the Marshwalk and serves as the Fire District Board President, does not believe this compromise is reasonable.

Hitchcock said the businesses put on the fireworks show to attract visitors to the Marshwalk during one of its slowest days.

"That's two separate things altogether, public safety and the promotion of tourism," Hitchcock said.

At this point, Hitchcock does not believe Goldfinch's support will be necessary to override the bill's veto.

However, Goldfinch said they do need his help on this issue, because it is a local legislation matter. He said there typically aren't a lot of votes, because other legislators don't like to get involved in other legislator's 'backyard' issues.

Hitchcock said lawmakers will be back in session sometime in August. The bill is expected to be taken up then.

Currently, the land for the new fire station has already been bought and cleared, and there is enough money to build a new fire station.

However, there isn't enough money to pay for a full-time staff, according to Hitchcock.