By Paul Gable
Questions arose about the recycling contract the HCSWA has signed with Charleston County during the regular meeting of Horry County Council Tuesday.
Council was considering first reading of a budget amendment ordinance to provide a means to amend the budget for recycling contracts entered into by the HCSWA. A budget amendment ordinance requires a super majority of nine “Yes” votes to pass, according to council rules.
The first reading passed with the minimum of nine “Yes” votes, but not before being subjected to some tough questioning especially by council member Al Allen.
Allen’s major concerns were in two areas – why council had not been provided with a copy of the HCSWA/Charleston County contract prior to first reading of the ordinance and why the HCSWA was flip-flopping on the issue of bringing waste into the county.
“I don’t want to have to vote for a contract in order to find out what’s in it,” Allen said. “I want to be able to read and study the contract before I vote on it.”
Council members received a copy of the HCSWA/Charleston County contract during the first reading discussion from county attorney Arrigo Carotti.
Allen referred back to the county’s flow control ordinance and discussed how, in his opinion, the HCSWA has switched positions on taking garbage in from out of county sources.
“Part of the reason for passing the flow control ordinance was so we could stop waste from coming into Horry County. The HCSWA strongly supported this,” Allen said. “The HCSWA fought against council and some or our state legislators not to change the flow control ordinance. Now that we have a contract…now we want to bring garbage from outside Horry County into Horry County. The HCSWA, through its actions, is flip-flopping like this.”
“Every time an issue comes up with the HCSWA and this council, we end up getting tripped up somehow,” Allen continued. “Every time we have an issue come up with the HCSWA, we have issues on this council. It’s time for this to stop.”
Then, Allen referred to a change that was made to the proposed contract when the Horry County Administration Committee voted 4-0 to limit the termination clause in the contract to a 30 day notice. The next day, the HCSWA board voted to change from 30 to 60 days notice.
“If they can ignore us or overrule us, this is a serious issue this council needs to stop and take a look at,” Allen said. “If we’re (HCC) not going to have overall authority over it (HCSWA) and the last say, we need to ask ourselves is this the road we need to continue on.”
Council member Johnnie Vaught said he agreed with the points Allen raised and he did not want the reason for the contract to be just about money.
Council member Gary Loftus questioned how long the HCSWA had been in discussion with Charleston County about bringing recyclables to Horry County for processing and sale. Loftus also questioned why the contract was not made available to council earlier.
HCSWA Executive Director Danny Knight said the main issue with supporting flow control was keeping Horry County generated waste in the HCSWA landfill maintaining a guaranteed revenue stream for the HCSWA.
Knight said the estimated $1 million per year the HCSWA projects to be profit from the contract will help the HCSWA from needing to raise tipping fees at its Hwy 90 landfill.
Knight also said the reason for the 60 day notice was because of a trucking contract Charleston County negotiated to haul its recyclables to Horry County and to allow the HCSWA time to scale down operations if the contract is terminated early.
Knight said Charleston County contracted with Holmes Farms of Horry County to haul the recyclables from Charleston County to the HCSWA material recovery facility where it will be processed.
Why the council did not receive a copy of the contract until it was already engaged in discussions of first reading of the budget amendment ordinance remains a mystery. However, Knight said it was not the fault of the HCSWA.
The vote on first reading of the budget amendment was 9-3 with Allen and council members Johnnie Vaught and Marion Foxworth voting “No.”
Foxworth resigned after the Tuesday meeting to accept the position of Horry County Registrar of Deeds. Even with only 11 remaining members on council when second reading comes up for consideration, scheduled for the September 1, 2015 regular meeting of council, the HCSWA will still need nine “Yes” votes to reach the required super majority threshold.
If one council member changes his vote, the budget amendment ordinance will be defeated, necessitating termination of the contract under the 60 day clause, according to Carotti.
It will be interesting to see how these issues develop over the next two weeks and if the HCSWA can maintain its razor thin margin for second reading.
We have supported the contract as one that appears to be of potential benefit to Horry County and the HCSWA with little risk of loss. However, the issues raised during the council discussion are valid and must be addressed.