CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County leaders say Hurricane Matthew started the conversation about relocating the county’s emergency operations center because they needed more space.
The emergency operations center has been stationed at the ML Brown Public Safety Building in Conway for more than 20 years, but Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus says the county has grown a great deal since then, and it’s time for a bigger building and a better place.
“One of the problems we had during Hurricane Matthew is that we had nowhere to put our people. We had people sleeping in the hallways and things like that and that’s just not a good situation,“ said Lazarus.
Lazarus says there also wasn’t enough room in the parking lots to stage equipment from power companies and the National Guard.
County Spokesperson Lisa Bourcier remembers other problems with the current facility during Hurricane Matthew.
“Some of the issues that we did have, especially with the flooding, was that roads around the EOC did flood. So, we did have some mobility issues getting in and out of that facility as well. So, we’re always looking at less vulnerable locations to put a facility like that, and, of course, the more Western we go away from those potential hazards is where we’re looking,” said Bourcier.
Lazarus told Horry County Public Safety Committee members this week they were looking at several plots of land in the western part of the county.
“We’re looking at a joint multi-use facility that we can use for a community center for the entire county,” said Lazarus.
The land would house the EOC, a community center, ball fields, and possibly a gun range.
Money from the county would have to come out of capital funds, but Lazarus says they’re also looking at grants and other options to make it happen.
“Horry County, financially, we’re in really good shape. We’ve got some bonds that are getting ready to come off and have pretty good bonding capacity which would really not affect the tax payers of Horry County because we can absorb it within our current bonding capacity,” assured Lazarus.
Bourcier says the plans for this new center are still very preliminary, and the budget has already been approved for this fiscal year without this project in place, but she says it could be in the fall budget discussions to come.