By Paul Gable
The Horry County Administration Committee will hear an update at its Friday meeting on plans to hire a law firm to sue the State of South Carolina if the General Assembly passes legislation to outlaw solid waste flow control within the state.
The ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ lawsuit would be one of the highest forms of political folly ever seen in this county of almost continuous political follies.
Couched by county council members as their line in the sand for ‘home rule’, it is anything but.
The Horry County Solid Waste Authority and then county attorney John Weaver sold county council a bill of goods in 2008 about the authority’s need to have flow control in order to stay in business.
At the time, several small, private haulers were taking construction and demolition waste out of the county to private landfills where they were paying less to dispose of the waste than the rate charged by the SWA. It was costing the SWA approximately $600,000 a year in revenue, according to SWA statements.
County council passed an ordinance (02-09) requiring all solid waste generated in the county to be disposed at the SWA landfill on Hwy 90 (flow control). This was done despite a study commissioned by the SWA four years earlier in which the SWA’s chosen expert firm, R.W. Beck, Inc., said the authority was charging too much on its rates for municipal solid waste and construction and demolition waste disposal.
All of the revenue from waste disposal goes to the SWA’s coffers where it has accrued $35 million in excess reserves through the years. County government receives no revenue benefit.
The SWA will argue that it gives the county approximately $750,000 per year for the 911 system while it conveniently forgets it charges the county approximately $900,000 per year to oversee operations of the 24 convenience centers in the unincorporated areas of the county. A net $150,000 deficit for the county.
Over the last two legislative years, the SWA, according to its own check register, spent $865,000 with a lobbying firm and $450,000 with a public relations firm attempting to head off legislation at the state level to outlaw flow control.
With all its excess revenues and money it budgets annually for public relations, lobbying and legal services, the SWA won’t be funding a lawsuit against the state if flow control is outlawed.
Instead, the county will spend taxpayer dollars out of its general fund, money that could be better used providing services to county citizens rather than defending a revenue stream to a quasi-governmental agency from which county government and citizens derive no benefit whatsoever.
It is way past time for county council to disband the SWA, take back solid waste disposal operations within the county division structure and put together a reasonable and efficient operation directly answerable to county government.
Only at that time will the county’s citizens realize any economic benefit from the millions that currently flow into the SWA’s coffers each year.