The county will not pay for a management study of Myrtle Beach International Airport after a narrow, last-minute rejection Tuesday by Horry County Council.
The proposed $105,000 study would have shined a spotlight on airport operations and management as the county tries to build a $200 million terminal.
Members of the airport's advisory board showed up to oppose the study, and supporters on the council could only rally seven of the nine votes required to shift money in the county budget.
"I feel we don't need a study at this time. I feel a study will stagnate the process of getting a new terminal built," advisory board member Bob Bellamy said. The appointed board makes proposals to the county on airport issues.
Councilmen Mark Lazarus, Marion Foxworth and Howard Barnard are among those who recently have supported some review of how the airport is run. But the issue has been divisive for the council. In June, an attempt by Foxworth to hold a private meeting on Airport Director Bob Kemp's employment led to a walkout by half the members.
The vote Tuesday came after a presentation by the Louis Berger Group of New Jersey, which already had been chosen in October to conduct the study despite the lack of a final decision by the council.
The Louis Berger Group, a 5,000-employee multinational consulting firm, collected data from the airport, including detailed background information on staffing, employee policies and engineering, according to the company.
Councilmen Kevin Hardee, Paul Prince, James Frazier and Harold Worley voted against continuing the project.
"We didn't vote on funding it yet, but we already hired someone to do it? How did that happen?" Hardee asked. "I think in the future before we have a kick-off party, we should have something to kick."
Mark Lazarus, who supported the study, said the council followed proper procedure by putting together a committee to choose the company and authorizing County Administrator Danny Knight to negotiate a contract.
The study would help the county proceed more efficiently with the $200 million terminal project, Lazarus said.
"We will be ahead of the game by doing this management study when we move in and start handling that growth," he said.
Any proposal that requires changing the county's annual spending plan needs more than a simple majority of council members for approval. Instead, a "super majority" is needed, meaning nine votes on the 12-member board.
The study idea may not be dead, however.
Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland said she will add it as a discussion item during the county's winter budget retreat, a several-day event when a financial plan for the coming year is hashed out.
Horry County councilman
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If approved, the study would look at how well the airport staff juggles recent increases in passengers, airport leases for companies such as AvCraft and day-to-day work on a $200 million terminal...
The $105,000 study would look at how efficiently the airport balances property leases, an increasing amount of passengers, and a $200 million terminal project.
News reports on management problems could impel the FAA to deny the county's request for all or part of the $200 million needed to pay for the new 14-gate terminal on the airport's west side.
The plan to rekindle the airport expansion by creating a joint city-county board was unveiled by a group of six County Council members this week.