Friday’s editorial urges Horry County and state leaders to work on their relationship, which has fractured noticeably during the recent debate about where to send our local trash:
“Why would they introduce a bill that goes against the people of Horry County?”
– Horry County Councilman Harold Worley, speaking of local legislators
“It’s not free enterprise, it’s not open market; it’s government monopoly.”
– S.C. House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham, sponsor of H. 4721
When it comes to determining what to do with our trash, most residents probably don’t care that much. Pick it up from the curb, truck it away and it’s quickly forgotten. But what to do with all that trash once it’s in the truck has quickly become the focus of quite a fight among local leaders.
A pair of bills, one in the state House and one in the Senate, would bar counties from setting limits on where waste can be dumped. As the only county in South Carolina that has adopted this tactic, the bills specifically target Horry County. The County Council passed a resolution Feb. 10 opposing the bills, and North Myrtle Beach did the same Feb. 6. Myrtle Beach hasn’t taken a stand on the issue, but Mayor John Rhodes said he’s in favor of the legislation, speaking as the leader of the S.C. Coalition of Mayors.
“It’s all about the money,” said Danny Knight, executive director of the Solid Waste Authority, at a Tuesday meeting of Horry County Council. He was speaking of the effort by private waste companies to reopen the county to their services, but his comment rings true for those on both sides of the debate.
To quickly sum up the issue, the county moved a couple of years ago to require all waste in the county to be directed only to its landfill on S.C. 90. This ensured that the county kept control of where all the garbage was heading, but more importantly, it gave the county all of the tipping fees generated by the thousands of tons of waste generated by our residents – $29 a ton times 1,000 tons a day adds up to a lot of money.
The county has used that money – commendably – to fund useful programs and agencies such as school recycling programs and the county’s E-911 service. If private companies were allowed to take their trash to any landfill, reducing the county’s cut of the fees, county leaders worry that they may have to raise taxes to make up the difference.
State legislators, on the other hand, have complained that this sort of arrangement is nothing short of a government-run monopoly, unfairly elbowing out competition from private companies. It’s a fair point that deserves consideration, particularly by those of our leaders so quick to fashion themselves pro-business conservatives when their own interest is not at stake.
The rhetoric has been flying thick and fast since the bills were introduced early this month, with warnings of higher taxes, possible lawsuits and increasing fees. At Tuesday’s council meeting, legislators were called out by name as working against the residents of Horry County, despite the best efforts of Chairman Tom Rice to limit the name-calling. Among others, Rhodes said he’s for eliminating flow control because he’s in favor of “free enterprise,” a challenge perhaps to other leaders to explain why they’re not. Meanwhile, as Rep. Nelson Hardwick said Thursday, “I guarantee you that 1 percent of the people who are complaining about it have read the bill.”
With tempers high and accusations coming from both sides, it’s good to see that county and state leaders will be sitting down Friday to discuss the issue. They may not reach an agreement – and in fact we suspect they won’t – but improved communication from both sides has clearly been called for. Whether any understanding is reached, the relationship between the two groups needs to be healed. Whatever happens concerning the flow of our trash, life will go on. Leaders on all levels will inevitably have disagreements, but when they do it’s worth reminding each other that they are all working with the good of residents in mind. A deeper rift will only hurt the county more in the long run.