By Paul Gable
Horry County Sen. Luke Rankin (R-Dist 33) performed well for his friends and contributors in the last month of the recent legislative session by holding off Senate passage of a bill that would have eliminated a government monopoly on garbage disposal in Horry County.
Called the “Business Freedom to Choose Act”, Rankin worked hard on the Senate floor to keep the bill from receiving passage in the final month of the legislative session. As a result of his work, the Horry County Solid Waste Authority will continue to monopolize garbage disposal at the expense of businesses and municipalities.
The irony in Rankin’s actions was open for all to see when he spoke against efforts by poor, rural communities to amend a telecommunications bill. The amendment would have provided some type of incentive to extend broadband communications coverage into currently unserved areas, probably through small cooperatives.
Rankin said, “We want to instill competition in the state and do not want to provide advantage for a tax subsidized provider. If you’re going to compete, you cannot do it at a subsidized rate.”
In other words, providing some type of government subsidized advantage to extend broadband coverage to communities where private business does not want to extend coverage for cost reasons is taboo. However, in Horry County, it’s okay to eliminate private competition in the waste industry because Rankin’s friends and contributors support the SWA.
The SWA controls the waste stream (garbage and debris) within the county through a flow control ordinance passed by county council in 2009. The ordinance dictates that all garbage generated within the county must be disposed of at the SWA Hwy 90 landfill at rates dictated by the SWA.
We were told at the time the ordinance was passed and have been continuously reminded since that the SWA needs a monopoly over the county’s garbage in order not to lose revenue.
Why would the SWA lose revenue? Simple, private waste haulers can dispose of waste cheaper at private landfills if not forced by county law to dispose of it at the SWA. And Rankin wants to promote competition and not give competitive advantage to government subsidized agencies? Where?
We have also been warned about extensive county financial liability, out of state waste waiting to deluge the SWA landfill and danger to the environment if Flow control is abolished. If I didn’t know better, I might be persuaded that the only remaining bastion of truth, justice and the American way is the SWA.
The SWA was created 22 years ago by county ordinance 60-90 when county council wanted to get out of the day-to-day business of running the county dump on Hwy 90. What the county created at the time is questionable as misinformation, contradictory claims and the generally amorphous nature of the entity have been associated with the SWA organization ever since.
The SWA incorporated and registered non-profit corporate status with the S.C. Secretary of State’s office on April 15, 1992. The seven members of the authority board are nominated by Horry County Council or the Horry County League of Cities, but all are approved by Horry County Council.
However, the SWA budget is included as part of the overall Horry County Government budget each year. The authority has never filed a Form-990 with the IRS, according to its accountant. It is believed that the SWA is the only registered non-profit corporation in the state not to file Form 990 on an annual basis.
At various times through its history, SWA officials have boasted that it was a “private, independent, non-profit corporation. Now, claiming potential liability, among other issues, and desirous of maintaining its monopoly over the county’s waste stream, the SWA is referred to as being owned “by all the citizens of the county.”
What we do know is that the SWA has amassed approximately $30 million of assets in various “funds” on its books. There has never been an independent financial audit of the SWA’s books to determine if this amount is necessary or excessive.
In fact, getting to the bottom of the SWA’s finances often seems more problematic than finding out what goes on inside the ‘Crystal Palace’ at the National Security Agency.
In our opinion, this quasi-independent government created authority works counter to the interests of private business and the public in Horry County, provides no real value to Horry County government, but works hard on propaganda to promote its self-image while amassing millions of dollars in ‘unrestricted’ funds.
Thanks to our hard working “conservative” Republican senator, this will apparently continue at least in the near future.