Politics and Garbage of Flow Control

By Paul Gable

As the ordinance to amend the county’s flow control ordinance comes up for third reading at the January 21, 2014 regular meeting of Horry County Council, the political rhetoric of garbage is reaching its apex.

Garbage has two meanings in this article – that which is buried at the Hwy 90 landfill and that which comes from the mouth of some Horry County Solid Waste Authority officials and their supporters.

The garbage that is buried at the landfill will be somewhat less if county council passes third reading of the ordinance. While the data from the HCSWA says this will result in lost revenue of $927,500 annually, an independent study says the actual cost to the HCSWA will be a miniscule $19,000 annually.

I read with interest an article about the flow control amendment published in mainstream media Saturday.

One statement in the article said, “…it could mean the authority may lose up to $40 million over the lifetime of the landfill if enough businesses opt to take their C&D to other landfills.”

The $40 million number sounds like a huge loss, but it is totally without merit. The amount comes from the ASSUMPTION that the authority’s $927,500 estimate is correct. However, that estimate does not take into account the hundreds of thousands of dollars the HCSWA will save annually from not processing and burying the waste and does not consider the extended life of the landfill, which will result from lost waste.

The above is an example of how an assumptive loss of $927,500 annually becomes an actual loss of only $19,000 annually!

That is only the beginning of the flow of garbage rhetoric from the HCSWA.

A statement in the article attributed to HCSWA assistant executive director Mike Bessant, which says “Mike Bessant, assistant executive director of the Solid Waste Authority, said the nearly $850,000 price tag for lobbyists and lawyers, which was funded fully by tipping fees and not by taxpayers,…”

Do Bessant and the reporter not understand how tipping fees are paid?

The various cities throughout the county pick up and transfer to the county landfill at least residential garbage. When the trucks from the municipalities go to the landfill to dump the garbage, they go across the scales and the municipalities are charged tipping fees. To pay for this service, the municipalities add a charge to each residential water bill for garbage pickup. The cost of the tipping fees is charged back to the taxpayers at their residences.

In the unincorporated areas of the county, things are done a little differently. Horry County has 24 waste convenience centers spread throughout the county. They handle waste as well as recyclables. Each time a container is transferred from a convenience center to the landfill, the county is charged for this hauling.

The county’s 24 convenience centers are funded by 6.2 mills of county tax on each property tax bill sent to personal property owners living in the unincorporated areas. Fully one-third of the HCSWA annual revenue comes from this county tax.

If it’s not taxpayers paying these garbage pickup charges in the municipalities and the tax millage charged in the unincorporated areas, who is it?

The statement is both wildly inaccurate, misleading and stupid. We’ll let Bessant and the reporter fight about who got it wrong.

But, the worst part of the article is the inference that can be drawn from it that council member Al Allen and council chairman Mark Lazarus are supporting the amendment because of campaign contributions from local business owner Donald Godwin.

The impetus for the flow control amendment came from Infrastructure and Regulation Committee chairman Jody Prince because he believes that flow control of construction and demolition waste is wrong policy for the taxpayers and businesses of Horry County.

Prince DID NOT get any campaign contributions from Godwin and the whole notion that campaign contributions may be driving this amendment train is BS! Nice try at starting a controversy that doesn’t exist!

One thing the article does do is demonstrate the absolute arrogance of the HCSWA. Created by county ordinance 60-90, the HCSWA board members and officials act as if the authority is a totally independent agency rather than a component unit of county government.

The first charge in the ordinance is finding alternative means of disposing county waste rather than burying it all in the landfill. The HCSWA has NEVER attempted to find alternatives. Rather, it has formed a monopoly over the disposal of all county waste at its landfill.

The seven members of the authority board are appointed by vote of Horry County Council. They are charged, first and foremost, with carrying out the policies approved by council, not with determining policy themselves and lobbying and threatening council members to agree, as has been the case throughout the four years of the flow control issue as well as other issues throughout the years.

The HCSWA, as it now operates, is the best argument I have seen of why quasi-governmental, independent authorities are the worst form of public policy governance.

After it passes third reading of the ordinance amending flow control Tuesday night, county council should take a serious look at repealing Ordinance 60-90, disbanding the HCSWA and absorbing the landfill and its personnel under the county administration umbrella in exactly the same manner as the county airports are currently governed. Instead of an authority board, an advisory board could make recommendations to council and we (county citizens) would all be better off and have to deal with much less garbage of the second type.

 

 

 

 

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