Horry County passes first step to allow construction debris outside of county again

jrodriguez@thesunnews.comDecember 10, 2013 

Operators drop off construction and demolition waste Monday at the Horry County Solid Waste Authority landfill outside of Conway. The Sun News Photo by Steve Jessmore sjessmore@thesunnews.com

STEVE JESSMORE — The Sun News Buy Photo

— The Horry County Council took its first move to repeal the construction and demolition debris portion of its flow control ordinance on Tuesday and vowed to talk further about the decision in a workshop.

One councilman said repealing the ordinance could mean up to a $40 million loss for the county and the Solid Waste Authority over the next 25 years at the landfill, and another wants the public to see it as saving up to 35,000 of construction and demolition debris, or C&D, annually for the next 25 years.

The council passed the first reading of the ordinance with a 6-5 vote. The ordinance will take three readings to pass. Councilmen Carl Schwarzkopf, Paul Prince, Marion Foxworth, Harold Worley and James Frazier voted against the first reading of the repeal. Councilman Brent Schulz recused himself from the discussion and vote.

In 2009, Horry County adopted a flow control ordinance to make sure construction and demolition, or C&D, debris from buildings in Horry County, among other waste, stayed in Horry County. The ordinance, passed in 2009, financially hurt private landfills outside of Horry County and led a landfill and a hauler to file a lawsuit against the county claiming the ordinance violated the law. The county has beat that suit at the state and federal levels.

The county and Solid Waste Authority receives about $26 per ton of C&D waste brought to the landfill. The majority of it goes to process the C&D, while a portion goes to educational recycling programs, infrastructure within the landfill and other programs, while about $2 goes to the county.

Landfill officials have said that up to five staff members and some programs may have to be cut if the C&D portion is repealed.

Worley said that if the same haulers who took their waste outside the county before flow control were to return to that practice after a repeal, it would cost the county and the landfill upwards of $1 million annually. Factor in inflation over the estimated 25 years left to fill the landfill, and that figure will reach $40 million, Worley said. He said the council needs more time to talk about the issue, and tried to get the council to put off the first reading until it can talk about it in a workshop. That attempt failed.

“I think it’s an issue that needs a lot of work,” Worley said. “There’s a lot to do before we get this to first reading.... I feel like waste is a function that government can do better for all the people and treat everyone the same.”

Worley said some of the tipping fees go to fund the county’s 911 system. If that money is taken away, the county will have to find alternative ways of funding for 911.

“So if something happens to the Solid Waste Authority, we’re going to have a tax increase,” Worley said.

Councilman Jody Prince, who has been a proponent of repealing the C&D portion of the ordinance, said the county’s estimated waste to out-of-county landfills is inflated and the threat of cutting programs and personnel is nothing more than “scare tactics.” He said he would like the public to see this move as one that frees up space in the county’s landfill, which is on pace to be capped in about 25 years.

Worley said he fears Sandlands C&D, the landfill that sued the county, will come after it again for lost revenue.

“We have spent probably close to a million dollars defending this flow control ordinance and here we are tonight, possibly... reversing that four-year-ago decision,” Worley said. “I’m very concerned that not only are we going to lose this $40 million, but we’ll be looking at possibly damages from these haulers that’s going to say, ‘I told you so. Give me my money that you cost me over the last four years.’”

A call to Donald Godwin, owner of Sandlands since May, was not returned Tuesday.

Worley also said he was concerned repealing the C&D portion would damage the county’s relationship with the state Association of Counties, which has backed Horry County in its fight for flow control.

Robert Croom, attorney for the South Carolina Association of Counties, said the association helps counties fight for whatever counties thinks is best for their residents.

“This is not a top-down organization. Our members set our policy. We are here to be of service to our counties that are members of this association,” Croom said. “Horry County needs to sit down with their lawyers and figure out if the bill has any effect on their residents, and do what they think is best for their people.”

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

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