Horry County, solid waste authority could lose $900K if council passes repeal of construction debris in flow control

jrodriguez@thesunnews.comDecember 4, 2013 

— Horry County is looking at repealing the construction and demolition debris portion of the flow control ordinance – a move than can cut into Solid Waste Authority profits by upwards of $900,000.

Up to five staff members, educational programs in schools and funds that address construction, new technology and recycling could be impacted if the County Council votes to approve repealing the construction and demolition, or C&D, debris from its flow control ordinance. The county’s administration committee will discuss the issue Friday and the full County Council will vote on it Tuesday. It will take three readings to get the measured passed.

The 2009 flow control ordinance was designed to keep C&D waste, among other things, that was produced in Horry County from going to other landfills outside the county. It sparked a lawsuit by two out-of-county landfills who say the move was against the law. Just this week, the county won that lawsuit, which made it all the way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Mike Bessant, assistant executive director at the Solid Waste Authority, said the projected loss is based on the assumption that companies who brought C&D waste out of county before the flow control ordinance took effect will again do so if the county repeals that portion of the ordinance.

“We would assume that those people will leave us again or have a good possibility leaving again,” Bessant said, adding the tonnage lost could reach 35,000. “People say you don’t know that those companies will leave. Well, it could be worse than 35,000 or it could be less than 35,000, but it’s going to somewhere around that number. We could only take our best guestimate based on historical numbers.”

Horry County set a precedent with the ordinance, prompting counties like Lexington and Greenville to explore their own ordinances. The House approved the Business Freedom to Choose Act, which prohibits local governments from enacting flow control ordinances on solid waste disposal. The bill allows for private businesses to get back in the game of receiving C&D debris so that local governments do not have an unfair competitive advantage over private enterprise.

Local House and Senate delegates are split on the ordinance. Last month, Sen. Greg Hembree called it “clearly the most divisive issue that we dealt with as a delegation this year.” Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Surfside Beach, said when Horry County passed the ordinance, he felt “it was an overreach by local government.”

Councilmen on the county’s Infrastructure and Regulation committee voted to recommend to the full County Council the repeal of that portion of the ordinance.

Bessant said one of the reasons haulers would choose out-of-county landfills to bring their C&D waste is the fee per ton. Sandlands C&D, a landfill on the border of Horry and Marion counties, charges $20 per ton of C&D material, Bessant said. The county, on the other hand, charges $26.50 per ton. He said it costs about $18 per ton to handle the C&D waste, and more than $2 goes to the county’s coffers leaving about $6 per ton to go to programs, education and the landfill’s post-closure fund.

“If we try to get as competitive as they are, then we have to cut out all the programming that we do,” Bessant said. “You can’t judge our tipping fees against theirs because we fund programs.”

Bessant said if the county repeals the C&D portion of the flow control ordinance in three readings, it will be passed by the end of January.

“Are we going to cut it all Feb. 1? No,” he said. “But as the money goes down, we will.”

Bessant hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“We’d have to look at everything,” he said. “We hope we don’t have to cut anything if none of them go out [of county], but we don’t think that’s realistic.”

Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.

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