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North Myrtle Beach Women's Club adopts 721st Company, 1st Platoon â€" by Jim Hulen

"Supplies From Home" is a program initiated by the North Myrtle Beach Women's Club to provide support to local military personnel. Among the first soldiers enrolled in the program is Specialist Ryan Rutkowski of the South Carolina Army Reserve. The Women's Club will be providing needed material to him and members of his platoon.

Mother, Nancy Rutkowski is a mortgage closing officer at Sandhills Bank in Little River. Father, Joseph, is retired from state and federal government service. Joseph, himself, is an Army veteran, having served in Korea; stationed at the DMZ. Specialist Ryan is their only son.

Ryan's Mom, Nancy, said, "I am really proud of Ryan. He is really doing what he wants to do and is very good at it. It is really great of the North Myrtle Beach Women's Club to include Ryan and his platoon in their program. We are a military family and it's just the thing that all of the men do â€" they serve their Country. Although his time with us is precious, Ryan took time to visit with the 5th grade class at the Socastee Elementary School to explain what he does and what his day consists of. "

Continuing, she said, "Ryan has five cousins - all navel officers. Out of the five, four graduated from the Navel academy. All have decided to make it their careers."

Specialist Rutkowski commented, "It makes for an interesting family time when Army plays Navy football."

Specialist Rutkowski, age 22 years, has been in the Army Reserve for over three years.
The Specialist said, "I went into the Army Reserve immediately after High School. After talking to recruiters of all branches of the military, including the Coast Guard, I chose the Army Reserve. I believed that military training would help me to be more focused and trained on my future."

In addition to his Army Reserve duty, Specialist Rutkowski worked at the Surf Golf and Beach Club while attending Horry Georgetown Technology College.

Specialist Rutkowski was first activated in July, 2005 when his Army Reserve unit was activated for service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He went overseas in November, 2005.

He received his training at Fort Jackson, SC, the largest and most active Initial Entry Training Center in the United States Army. Fort Jackson is located within the city of Columbia, SC. He was stationed in Kuwait where he supported convoys transporting supplies throughout Iraq.

He is a local citizen and resides in Longs, SC. A 2002 graduate of the North Myrtle Beach Christian Academy, he played baseball and basketball. In basketball, his coach and mentor was Mike Johnson. From 1998 to 2002 he was the four year leading scorer and a four year Most Valuable Player (MVP). Exceptionally, the North Myrtle Beach Christian Academy retired his jersey!

The Specialist has ambitions to make the Army Reserve a 20 year career while pursuing a degree at Coastal Carolina in political science, leading to a law degree. Rutkowski wants to match his civilian career as a lawyer with eventual entry to the Judge Advocate General (J.A.G) Unit of the Army Reserves.

Rutkowski said, "The J.A.G. Corps Attorneys are exposed to a wide variety of legal work with wide-reaching impact in just a few short years. Being a part of the J.A.G. Corps would offer me the unique opportunity of serving my country as an Officer in the Army while quickly developing professional skills."

His career path goals are very similar to the path that South Carolina Senior Senator, Lindsey Graham followed. Graham logged six-and-a-half years of service on active duty as an Air Force lawyer.

From 1984-1988, Senator Graham was assigned overseas. Upon leaving the active duty Air Force in 1989, Graham joined the South Carolina Air National Guard where he served until his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994. Since 1995, Graham has continued to serve his country in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and is the only U.S. Senator currently serving in the Guard or Reserves.

Perhaps, one day, Specialist Rutkowski may be U.S. Senator Rutkowski.

Specialist Rutkowski, said, "What I like about the Army is the intensity of the work. In the near term, while activated, I would like to go into the Special Forces. These units have the most advanced weaponry and equipment the U.S. military has to offer. Also, since Special Forces also are concerned with local nationals in various countries, I will have the opportunity to learn foreign languages and cultures."

He is returning Monday, Feb 20th to his assignment in Kuwait.

Sometimes it is the simple things that a community can do to support our troops.

Specialist Rutkowski said, "We go through a lot of socks and the heat and sun really take a toll on us â€" simple things like lip balm would be a great thing to have. Also, pre-paid phone cards would be great so that we can keep in touch with home. With the intensity of the work, energy bars would also be a great help."

Continuing, he said, "Sometimes we leave with only what we can put in our pockets."

Do your part to support this hometown local hero. Please contact Rima Hulen, of the North Myrtle Beach Women's Club, at 280-0382 or Marti Drummond, at 280-3169 to donate money or material.

We need to do our part to support those who give back to us so much in the fight against terrorism.

  0   Article ID : 706
Horry County Introduces ePay

This is a subject of an online poll, please vote! Horry County had a "soft" introduction of ePay, an online tax payment system, in January and is available to the public. Horry County took in over $775,000 of online payments for the month of January.

Horry County ePay provides a mechanism for citizens to pay current personal property, real property and vehicle taxes online. Delinquent taxes will not be accepted online. "The option for online tax payments have been request by many property owners over the last couple of years, and we are excited that people are using this internet application," stated, Horry County Treasurer Roddy Dickinson. "This has been widely used by those property owners who live out-of-state, and we expect it to continue in popularity."

Online users will pay a 3 percent convenience fee for use of credit cards by the payment processor. VISA and MasterCard are the only credit cards accepted. The public can also pay by eCheck, which has a flat $2.50 convenience fee. Horry County does not receive any portion of the above convenience fees.

  0   Article ID : 700
Gas prices vary widely in North Myrtle Beach area â€" By Jim Hulen

Based upon data AAA gathered on February 14th, 1006, a ten mile range within and near North Myrtle Beach, showed prices ranging from $2.15 to $2.19 for regular gas with an average of $2.17.

For some reason, gas stations within Little River charge the highest North Strand prices â€" from 8 to 10 cents a gallon higher than within North Myrtle Beach.

How does North Myrtle Beach's gas prices compare with other Grand Strand beach communities? Myrtle Beach and the South Strand gas prices are anywhere from three cents to twelve cents higher per gallon. Going south from North Myrtle Beach, you would have to drive to Charleston or North Charleston to get better gas prices, but then only by two to five cents.

Surprisingly, with everything else costing much more at Hilton Head Island, area gas prices are only one cent per gallon more.

Frank Boulineau who owns the Sea Mountain Highway Shell station said, "The North Myrtle Beach area is one of the most competitive areas around. That is the major factor that keeps gas prices lower than the surrounding areas. As a matter of fact, we just lowered our gas prices from $2.17 this morning to $2.13 this afternoon. Also, some of our customers don't realize that if they use a Shell credit card they get a 5% rebate making our prices ten cents a gallon lower."

Don't even think about going into North Carolina beach communities for better prices. Just across the line in Calabash or Carolina Shores prices are $.12 per gallon higher. Farther north to Southport, Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills, motorists will pay eleven cents a gallon more.

If you are planning a trip to Charlotte this weekend, better fill up in North Myrtle Beach or Loris, because you will pay $2.27 a gallon around the Queen city and her

  0   Article ID : 699
Are North Myrtle Beach private property rights protected? â€" By Jim Hulen

This article is a subject of our online poll. Please vote!

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 decision, ruled in favor of New London, Connecticut (the Kelo decision) seizing property from private citizens and turning it over to other private citizens. New London's objective was to increase tax revenues to revitalize a distressed city.

There are only a few states in the nation where using eminent domain for private development is prohibited by law. South Carolina is not among them.

Can the concept of condemnation for increasing property taxes be applied here?

NorthMyrtleBeachONLINE turned to S.C. State Rep. Tracy Edge and North Myrtle Beach Mayor, Marilyn Hatley, to find the answer. Edge has a Masters in Business, is an experienced legislature and certified to teach continuing education in land use and property rights. Marilyn Hatley has served on the City Council for five years, is currently serving her second term as Mayor and is the Chairman of the Horry County League of Cities.

The Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution reads, "No person shall … be deprived of . . . property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Edge said, "The wording of the Bill of Rights introduces problems.

"The first, the definition of ‘due process of law' is not defined in federal statutes but in state laws and sometimes local ordinances. Some states, like S.C., have vague wordings, inviting wide interpretations.

"Another problem is the phrase ‘public use.' Historically, the definition was narrowly limited to roads, hospitals and military bases. As mass transit evolved, the definition progressed to include the transfer of private property to private parties who make the property available for public use . . . such as a railroad, a public electrical, telephone or cable utility.

"Over time, many courts have let the phrase advance to mean ‘public purpose,' focusing around private property seizures in ‘blighted' areas where these areas were injurious to the public health, safety, morals and welfare. The courts rationalized that eliminating the existing use was necessary to remedy the public harm.

"The Supreme Court, in its 5 to 4 ruling, accepted the ‘public purpose' interpretation to allow ‘economic development' as a public use . . . enlarging the range of properties that might be seized.

"Interestingly, the Supreme Court decision, in a postscript, suggests property owners should turn to the States to limit economic development takings."

What is the Legislature doing about this issue?

Edge said, "There are over 60 provisions in South Carolina's laws that define the circumstances where eminent domain may be used and even include ‘those engaged in the improvement of health.'

"There is nothing in our laws that currently prohibit a Kelo-type interpretationâ€" the potential abuse is great.

"Our laws currently establish the right of any municipality, housing or redevelopment authority to undertake and carry out slum clearance and redevelopment in areas predominately slum or blighted.

"Disturbing is the numerous authorities that have been created and empowered with private property seizure power to achieve aims. Combined with the fact that courts have many times deferred to local entities the right to define what constitutes a slum or blighted area gives me great concern.

"On January 25, 2006, the House introduced a bill that would severely limit most non-governmental authorities' ability to use condemnation procedures without oversight.

"Additionally, the bill strengthens what constitutes blight and slums. Today, almost anything could fall under those definitions … a home's appearance, overcrowded apartment buildings, and even vacant land. The new bill requires a finding of injury to the public.

"Just compensation is also addressed and the bar has been raised - the only significant area where the House and Senate differ. The Senate bill is silent on just compensation.

Concluding, Edge said, "The action is on a fast track. I expect passage within two months."

Mayor Marilyn Hatley said, "Our community's economic health depends upon people feeling secure in their property rights so they will see that investing in homes and businesses will not be at the risk of governments' whims.

"Last year's decision by the Supreme Court shook this faith and we must work to restore our community's confidence. Neither has it been this Council's will nor past Councils' to employ eminent domain to increase property tax revenue.

"To insure that private property seizure to increase tax revenue never happens, State laws must be changed. We are working with our local state delegation, the Municipal Association and the League of Cities to alter current statutes to prevent that from ever happening."

"H.4502, introduced by Rep. Edge, addresses these concerns; however, the bill goes too far; complicating clearing up eminent domain rules. The bill includes an unrelated provision that addresses compensation if a land use law reduces the fair market value of property. Our State must not introduce complications that will slow this issue getting to the voters for ratification.

"For many reasons, I support the specific wording in S.1031 that is targeted and rejects any consideration of economic development as a rationale for exercising eminent domain. It is a limited bill that would prevent Kelo from happening in South Carolina.

"Conversely, H.4502 restricts the community's ability to influence the direction of growth. The unrelated provision would inhibit the community accomplishing the greater goals of our citizens that are important in a resort area â€" such as preserving view corridors and maintaining buffers between resort, commercial and residential areas.

For the perspective of the realtor community, Sue Burgess, owner of Aladdin Realty weighed in.

Burgess said, "The taking of private property for public use for roads, hospitals, etc. is not a local problem. But takings must provide compensation to the property owners based upon the current fair market value of the property at the time of seizure. I also believe that property value be established by appraisers familiar with property in S. C.

"Additionally, there must be safe guards in our laws specifically stating the condition and methods by which such takings are justified.

"North Myrtle Beach is fortunate, as private enterprise and economic growth have removed weathered, blighted areas for the most part without governmental takings," she finished.

Click here to answer our poll question[/color][/b][/i][/u]

  0   Article ID : 693
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