Time is running out for Coast RTA funding decision

Members of the Coast RTA Board of Directors during a specially called meeting Tuesday morning to discuss a funding agreement with Horry County

Coast RTA met in a specially called meeting Tuesday morning to go over a funding agreement that lays out rules and regulations for the more than $1 million it hopes to receive from Horry County.

The Coast RTA Board of Directors went over the agreement Horry County recently presented with a fine toothed comb.

The board took issue with a number of the clauses in the funding agreement, including one that laid out a schedule for when the funds from the county would be disbursed and said that each of the four disbursements was contingent on the county council approving it in a resolution.

That clause also gives county the right to review invoices, proof of payments and agreements with third parties provided by Coast RTA before making scheduled payments.

That clause presents problems because Coast RTA would have to work with the South Carolina Department of Transportation and the Federal Transportation Authority to prove that funds were owed to Horry County, said Julie Norton-Dew, the Interim General Manager and CEO of Coast RTA.

Gary Loftus, the Coast RTA Board Member representing Horry County, said they understand that that section may have to be reworked to comply with SCDOT and FTA requirements. But he said overall "the whole key is County Council wants a little bit more oversight than they currently have" of Coast RTA and its finances.

Coast RTA board members also pointed out that while the county says in the agreement that it can be cancelled with 10 days of written notice, it takes at least 45 days to cancel a route.

Coast RTA has one week to come to an agreement with the county on the specifics of the funding agreement. If they do not reach an agreement they risk not getting any of the $1,055,000 in county funding, as well as losing federal matching funds.

Loftus said he wishes the agreement didn't have to be so rushed.

"I hate that this is the way a lot of things happen, but people only seem to move when they have their backs against the wall," he said.

Norton-Dew said she thinks the two will be able to reach an agreement in time.

"I am concerned with the timeline but I feel that even though the timeline is strict that we will be able to come to an agreement," she said.

Coast RTA staff will be working to draft changes to the agreement and will present those changes to Horry County as soon as possible, she said.

"We know that we are under a strict timeline and we are prepared to do what we need to do to come to an agreement prior to the vote on Tuesday night next week," Norton-Dew said.

It was also revealed during the meeting that Coast RTA will be getting rid of their full-time staff lawyer due to financial concerns.

Bernard Silverman, Chairman of the Coast RTA board, said that move will go into effect at the end of June and that a lawyer would be put on contract with Coast RTA after that.