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Lawmakers deliver $1 million for school purchase, council unaware

Taking part in a check presentation on the former Loris High School property on Thursday were, from left, State Rep. Lucas Atkinson, State Sen. Kent Williams, Mayor Todd Harrelson, State Rep. Kevin Hardee, and Horry County Council members Mark Causey and Danny Hardee. (Jenn Causey, TLT)

By DEUCE NIVEN

& JENN CAUSEY

     Outgoing Mayor Todd Harrelson accepted a $1 million check that will allow the City of Loris to purchase the former Loris High School property later this year, joining state lawmakers and Horry County Council members Thursday for a formal presentation on the 17-acre property.

     Grateful for the state and county support, members of city council, including Michael Suggs who was sworn as Mayor on Saturday, said this week they were not told of the check presentation and therefore did not attend.

     “I knew nothing about it,” Suggs said Tuesday. “You would certainly think that for an event like that the full city council would have been made aware of it.”

     “I was not made aware of it and did not have an opportunity to attend.”

     Suggs noted that the state grant will leave the city $500,000 short of the purchase price. With nearly $300,000 in federal American Rescue Plan funds now earmarked for the purchase, the city will still have to finance more than $200,000.

     “We don’t have that money,” Suggs said. “We will be going back to the legislature asking for help. I wouldn’t want the delegation to think that anybody here wasn’t appreciative of this grant.

     “I hope our absence doesn’t give them that impression.”

     Closing for the property purchase is set for March 15.

     Council members Carroll Padgett and Joan Gause each said they were not aware of the presentation. Padgett said City Administrator Clay Young was likely also unaware, because “he would have made sure everyone knew.”

     Padgett said he learned of the check presentation “after the fact. Someone sent me a picture.

     “That was a problem,” Padgett said, “from the whole time I’ve been here, we don’t know anything. Hopefully that’s going to change.”

     Padgett said he’s expecting better communication and cooperation under Mayor Suggs.

     “You work better together with anybody if you know what’s going on,” Padgett said. “There’s no sin in disagreeing. You vote the way your conscious tells you and you move on.”

     As council moves forward in 2024, Suggs and Padgett sounded optimistic tones.

     “It’s a new day,” Suggs said. “I hope we can work together and move forward.”

     “There are exciting times ahead,” Padgett said.

Presentation

     State Rep. Kevin Hardee made the check presentation four months after council approved the property purchase, last August. That followed more than a year of negotiations with Nathan “Buddy” Hardwick and an agreement to pay him $1.5 million for the property.

     Others invited for the presentation were state Sen. Kent Williams, state Rep. Lucas Adkinson, and county council members Danny Hardee and Mark Causey.

     “This money we received from the state will go a long way towards the purchase of this property,” Harrelson said during the presentation. “I, like many of us, went to school and graduated from here. This campus is very special to us because it holds so many great memories.”

     Sen. Williams said Rep. Hardee and Harrelson helped make the grant possible.

     “Without Kevin’s leadership in the House seeking votes to secure the $1 million check from the state, it wouldn’t be possible,” Williams said.

     Williams said he was also appreciative for Harrelson’s efforts seeking the state funding.

     Look for more on this story in this week’s Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.