County Council passes 2nd reading to extend hospitality fee to fund I-73

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) -Horry County leaders voted Tuesday night to extend the county’s hospitality fee that could help fund the I-73 project.

Council member Johnny Vaught says passing this extension could help generate millions of dollars, helping them speed up the process for I-73.

Tuesday was the second reading of the ordinance that would allow the county to repeal what’s called the ‘Sunset provision’ of the 1.5 percent hospitality fee. The provision means they’d be able to keep collecting the fee that comes when you stay in a hotel, eat at a restaurant, or see a movie or show in a theatre.

Vaught says the tax collects millions of dollars they’ve been using to build Highway 22 and Highway 31, but if they continue collecting that tax, it could be used to pay for I-73, a project they’re desperate to find money for.

“We don’t know how much the feds are going to support us or how much South Carolina’s going to support us. We know we need the road, and so, we’ve pledged to work with those groups and see what we have to do and to try and be ready with some money if we need to,” Johnny Vaught, Horry County Council member.

Tuesday night, some council leaders asked if a portion of the tax money could be used towards public safety so the county won’t have to look at raising property taxes.

“It has to be used for approved hospitality uses, tourism related uses. Those uses could be for beach patrol, or personnel that we allocate that we’re protecting tourist areas, if you will,” said Council member Mark Lazarus.

Other county leaders were against using the tax for anything other than infrastructure and roads, claiming when it was originally passed, roads were what it was meant for.

Lazarus says it would be a good way to get money to pay for Horry County’s portion of creating I-73.

“It’s going to cost Horry County about $400 million for the Horry County portion to get to the county line. We cannot, cannot use that money outside of Horry County,” said Lazarus.

If this passes the third and final reading at the next meeting, Lazarus says council will then vote on what to use the money for.