By Paul Gable
Bills introduced in the South Carolina House and Senate at the beginning of this new legislative session would end the government enforced flow control monopoly on solid waste disposal currently in force in Horry County.
For four years, the Horry County Solid Waste Authority, at its Hwy 90 landfill, has been the recipient of all solid waste generated within the county thanks to a flow control ordinance passed by Horry County Council in early 2009.
The ordinance was enacted because the SWA was losing money to private haulers that were able to dispose of construction and demolition waste more cheaply at private landfills in other counties.
Horry County council members acted like the bunch of sheep they are, when dealing with the SWA, by meekly obeying the SWA’s command to end competition in the solid waste marketplace. No thought, no discussion just move blindly down the road you are being ordered.
At the end of the road lay a monopoly on solid waste disposal for the SWA when county council mandated all solid waste generated in the county had to be disposed of at the SWA.
Rather than attempt to compete in the marketplace, the SWA demanded county council close the marketplace to everyone but itself. The result is county businesses and citizens are forced to pay $27.50 per ton to dispose of C&D waste rather than the $15 – $20 per ton disposal rates that are charged at the private landfills.
That’s a government mandated monopoly, to avoid competition, for an authority that totals over $35 million in its reserve funds.
The flow control monopoly is so important to the SWA that it spent $865,000 over the last two years to a North Myrtle Beach lobbying firm and nearly $500,000 to a public relations firm to fight passage of similar legislation during the 2011-12 General Assembly legislative session.
It would have been better if the SWA had used that money to find ways to lower its C&D disposal rate to become more competitive with the private market.
But the SWA doesn’t work that way. It has a mostly sycophantic board of directors that approves whatever its top management wants and a sycophantic county council that falls in line, when necessary, to accommodate its wishes.
Council is supposed to set policy and oversee all functions of county public services. It falls horriblyshort in that mission with respect to the SWA.
Successful passage of the state bills could change that. They will outlaw the SWA monopoly if they pass. Maybe council will then be inspired to take up the cause of serious oversight of the SWA that it now neglects.