By Paul Gable
Horry County Council failed to pass second reading of a budget amendment that is required for the HCSWA to take recyclables from Charleston County.
A budget amendment requires an absolute super majority vote of council, nine “Yes” votes, in order to pass.
The amendment received a vote of 7-4. A vote of 9-2 was required to pass second reading. Horry County Council District 3 is without a member pending a special election this fall to replace Marion Foxworth who resigned after the August 18th council meeting to accept the Registrar of Deeds job.
Without a budget amendment approved by county council, the Horry County Solid Waste Authority has no authority to contract with Charleston County to take recyclables from Charleston County.
But, the HCSWA already has signed that contract and has been processing recyclables from Charleston County since late July.
And, it’s not the contract itself that caused four council members to vote against the budget amendment Tuesday night.
Rather, it’s the process, or lack of it, that the HCSWA used to come to an agreement with Charleston County in the first place.
According to past statements by several HCSWA officials, Charleston County first approached the HCSWA in late May 2015 about taking recyclables for processing at the HCSWA material recovery facility on Hwy 90.
At that point, the HCSWA should have informed Horry County Council what was being discussed and the ramifications for the HCSWA budget, which is part of the overall county budget approved by council.
In early discussions I had with HCSWA officials, they said they didn’t believe the authority needed a budget amendment approved by county council to enter into a contract with Charleston County.
They were very wrong.
But, it was July 30, 2015 before the HCSWA even talked to a county committee, in this instance the Administration Committee, about what was going on.
At that meeting, the committee voted to recommend to council approval of a contract between the HCSWA and Charleston County with some very specific provisions, the main one of which was a 30 termination notice by either party.
The next night, the HCSWA board took its first formal vote on the proposed contract. It approved signing the contract with Charleston County, but changed the 30 day notice to a 60 day termination notice because that was a provision specifically requested and needed by Charleston County.
But, it was contrary to specific instructions from Horry County Council and the contract was signed before council even held first reading on the budget amendment. HCSWA Executive Director Danny Knight signed the contract and faxed it to Charleston County after the special board meeting July 31, 2015.
According to information provided at the HCSWA board meeting, the authority had already processed truckloads of Charleston County recyclables as “test” units. Charleston County started regular delivery of recyclables to the MRF August 3, 2015.
When Horry County Council held first reading of the budget amendment at its August 18, 2015 regular meeting, several council members complained about not having been provided with a copy of the contract before the meeting.
However, first reading of the budget amendment passed by the minimum nine “Yes” votes needed. It fell two votes short of that threshold Tuesday night, thereby killing the budget amendment.
Now, the HCSWA is left holding a signed contract for which it has no authority to be a party to.
According to conversations I have had with council members, no member of council is opposed to the Charleston County contract outright, including the four who voted against it. However, there is at least a majority of council who believes the HCSWA totally ignored proper procedure in entering into the contract.
In addition, a majority of council members are troubled by the fact that the HCSWA is bringing in trash from out of county, some of which will find its way into the HCSWA landfill.
Saving landfill space through diversion of trash already going to the HCSWA landfill is a major goal of a majority of council members.
The real irony of the situation is for five years, from early 2009 until January 2014, the HCSWA strongly supported the county’s flow control ordinance on the basis that it would stop trash from other counties or states from coming into Horry County and trash from Horry County from leaving.
That ended when county council amended its flow control ordinance in January 2014 to allow construction and demolition debris to go out of the county, at the discretion of the hauler, to other approved landfills.
The HCSWA fought the flow control amendment to the bitter end of the three reading ordinance process required for the change. Now, however, because it sees potential benefit from the Charleston County contract, the HCSWA is fighting to bring trash into the county.
The contract signed by the Executive Director of the HCSWA and the Charleston County Administrator is entitled “Intergovernmental Agreement.”
The HCSWA is not a government. It is a component unit of Horry County Government. It was created by Horry County Council ordinance. Its board is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of Horry County Council. The HCSWA can be dissolved by Horry County Council ordinance.
Many times through its nearly 25 years of existence, the HCSWA has chosen to ignore those simple facts and act as if it is an independent body in control of its own destiny. Yet, throughout all of those years, its budget has been required to be approved by Horry County Council.
The responsibility for Tuesday night’s council vote, which puts the Charleston County contract in serious jeopardy, lies directly at the feet of HCSWA staff.
HCSWA staff should have involved its own board and Horry County Council in discussions about the contract from the first overtures in May. If it had, probably none of the current problems would have arisen.
Instead, as so many times in the past, the HCSWA staff chose a different route, claiming time constraints. But, time constraints or not, proper procedure must be followed and it was not.
And four members of Horry County Council, Al Allen, Johnny Vaught, Cam Crawford and Jody Prince had the guts to stand up and say, ‘If you can’t follow proper procedure, if you choose to diminish or ignore the authority of this council, we won’t support you, regardless of the issue.’