A Funny Thing Happened to Flow Control Insurance

By Paul Gable

A funny thing happened to the Horry County Solid Waste Authority on the way to the forum Tuesday night. It ran into a problem while trying to foist its solid waste stream flow control insurance plan on Horry County Council.

Expectations are the S.C. General Assembly will finally pass legislation outlawing flow control statewide next year. Since it was Horry County Council, at the direction of the SWA four years ago, that established the only flow control monopoly in the state, the SWA was blindsided when council did not roll over for it at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The SWA is now running around the county attempting to sign most haulers and all trash generating communities to five year contracts. If the customers agree to bring all their trash to the SWA landfill during that period, the SWA will give a $2 per ton reduction on its tipping fee if certain minimum recycling percentages are met.

In other words, before the SWA loses its flow control monopoly through legislative action, it hopes to have its continuance guaranteed through signed contracts. Call it flow control insurance, back door flow control, or whatever you want.

But the SWA ran into trouble when it tried to explain why the county needs to sign such a contract.

The SWA was created over 22 years ago, by Horry County Ordinance 60-90. Since its creation, the SWA has managed the running of the county’s recycling and convenience center trash drop off sites spread throughout the county. The SWA currently receives over $6 million in county tax revenue to run these sites.

When county council member Jody Prince asked why the county should effectively sign a contract with itself to receive a tipping fee discount, there was no answer.

Throughout its history, the SWA has been an amorphous mass. It has no definite character or shape. The SWA has merely adopted whatever form it needed in order to conform to whatever argument it was advancing at the time.

In documents submitted to the court for a lawsuit challenging flow control, the SWA described itself to the court as a private, non-profit corporation. In documents it is preparing to submit to the IRS, the SWA is describing itself as a unit of Horry County government.

{Here’s a hint – private landfills are required by law to post a bond or purchase an insurance policy as protection against any future environmental damage and cleanup. The SWA has pledged the full faith and credit of Horry County government for that purpose, should it be needed.)

(Hint #2 – The SWA does not want file a Form 990 with the IRS and explain how it accumulated $37 million in the bank while claiming to be a non-profit.)

SWA executive director Danny Knight told council the recycling incentive plan was important to help save airspace at the Hwy 90 landfill.

This is the same authority that insisted on having all solid waste generated within the county brought to its landfill. Some solid waste that was going out of the county, prior to flow control, was forced to go to Hwy 90 at higher cost. Where was the concern for saving landfill airspace then?

Four years ago, the SWA’s main argument for flow control was that it needed to be guaranteed disposal of all trash generated within the county in order to be guaranteed the revenue necessary to continue its operations.

Now it is offering discounted tipping fees as an incentive to sign its flow control insurance contracts, which only proves the SWA has been overcharging the county, municipalities and private haulers throughout its history.

The arrogance shown by the SWA since its inception has been overwhelming. Over the last 22 years, it has amassed approximately $37 million in excess revenue while portraying itself as a non-profit corporation or county government unit – take your pick.

A really scary thing is the SWA by-laws currently provide that its unelected, county appointed board of directors may vote to disband the authority, at any time, and dispose of the authority assets as it sees fit.

It’s well past time for change at the SWA’s Hwy 90 headquarters. Maybe one is finally in the offing.

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