Post Tagged with: "Horry County Solid Waste Authority"

Is Further Expansion of SWA Landfill Needed?

August 4, 2018 8:00 AM
Is Further Expansion of SWA Landfill Needed?

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority’s latest plan to extend operations at the Hwy 90 landfill until approximately 2050 appears to have sprung out of nowhere in recent months for no apparent reason.

At a recent board meeting, SWA Executive Director Danny Knight told board members the latest expansion plan was moving forward because it was the authority’s responsibility to maximize the use of available land at the Hwy 90 site for waste disposal.

Actually, that statement runs counter to the ordinance that established the SWA in December 1990. Ordinance 60-90 states there is a need to develop an acceptable alternative for solid waste disposal and to reduce the amount of tonnage disposed in sanitary landfills in Horry County. It further states the high water table and other geologic characteristics in Horry County “make utilization and expansion of the existing landfill and development of new landfills especially expensive and difficult.”

Through the years since the authority’s opening in 1992, that section of the ordinance has been forgotten or ignored by a succession of SWA staff and board members.

The timeline set by the SWA for what is being called “Piggyback Expansion Phase III” hopes for a permit for the expansion to be issued by SCDHEC in June 2019 even though Piggyback Phase II is only now under construction and Phase III will not be needed until 2040 at projected disposal rates.

Why the rush? Shouldn’t the SWA staff and board members be seeking alternative means of disposal of the county’s solid waste?

The answer to the first question is not available to the public and not known by county council members, only a few of whom have recently become aware of these expansion plans.

The answer to the second question is “Yes” only if the SWA board and staff believe it is their responsibility to obey the law that established the authority in the first place. To date that has not been the case.

And what of the cost? It was only 18 months ago that the SWA projected a $33 million shortfall in needed funds by 2024 unless it received a nearly 50% increase in tipping fees. County council approved an immediate $7 per ton increase with additional $1 per year increases as the SWA needs them.

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Solid Waste Authority Looking for Further Expansion

July 20, 2018 8:45 AM
Solid Waste Authority Looking for Further Expansion

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) is preparing to request a Determination of Need from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control for permission to further expand capacity at its Highway 90 landfill.

The request, expected to be sent in next month, will begin the process to add a Phase III Piggyback landfill cell for Class 3 Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and expansion of the current Class 2 Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste landfill.

The SWA says it needs this expansion to continue serving the needs of the residents of Horry County for landfill capacity.

Included in the plans for Phase III is a proposed bridge over Sterritt Swamp and a new roadway snaking through wetlands areas on the authority’s 1187 acre tract adjacent to the current landfill site. The bridge and roadways are needed to mine approximately one million square yards of dirt on the 1187 property and haul it to the landfill for construction.

It is only 18 months ago that the SWA was literally begging Horry County Council to approve an increase in tipping fees at the Hwy 90 landfill to keep the authority solvent. The need for the increase in fees was blamed on capital expenditures associated with current Phase II Piggyback Expansion and planned Vertical Expansion for the MSW landfill.

Horry County Council approved an immediate $7 per ton increase in tipping fees for MSW with additional $1 per ton increments for seven more years and a $1 per ton increase for C&D.

The SWA landfill sits in an environmentally sensitive area surrounded by Sterritt Swamp on three sides. Its origin dates back to open, unlined garbage dumps that served the City of Conway since the 1960’s.

As the state was preparing what would become the South Carolina Solid Waste Policy Management Act of 1991, Horry County Council formed the SWA, by county ordinance 60-90, to conform with the new state law.

A hydrology report prepared in 1990 by HDR Engineering stated that no soils in Horry County were listed as fair to good for landfills. The 1990 report and several subsequent through 2001 stated the Hwy 90 landfill site was hydrologically unsuitable for a landfill due to the proximity of Sterritt Swamp.

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Horry County Council Keeps Circus Alive

June 9, 2017 5:06 AM
Horry County Council Keeps Circus Alive

“The Greatest Show on Earth” closed last month after 146 years of performances, but the circus remains alive and well among Horry County Council members.

Unfortunately for members, Horry County Council meetings will never be known as “The Greatest Show on Earth”. But, they may well be ranked high among the weirdest shows in politics.

Considering the dysfunctional mess that passes for federal government in Washington, D.C., that is not a ranking to be proud of.

Tuesday’s regular meeting of Horry County Council saw council members jumping through hoops to avoid making what seems an obvious decision regarding the Horry County Solid Waste Authority board.

The show apparently allowed the candidacy of Norfleet Jones for reappointment to the SWA board to remain alive for a little longer.

Jones served two consecutive terms on the SWA board from 2004-2012. After a one year hiatus, Jones was reappointed to the SWA board in 2013 for another four year term and is now seeking reappointment.

According to Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti, Jones was illegally appointed to the authority board in 2013 because he only had the one year hiatus, after serving two consecutive terms on the board, instead of the at least two years required by Horry County ordinance.

According to Carotti, Jones is not eligible for reappointment since his current board term appointment was not made in accordance with Horry County law.

That explanation should have made the appointment of Sam Johnson, the other candidate for appointment to the SWA board, a slam dunk.

Instead, council members chose to go through a convoluted debate that ended with a motion to defer the vote.

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Questionable Executive Session Item for HCSWA Board

May 22, 2017 6:05 PM
Questionable Executive Session Item for HCSWA Board

A very questionable executive session item has been added to the HCSWA (Horry County Solid Waste Authority) board meeting agenda for Tuesday.

The executive session item is listed as “Legal Advice Regarding Upcoming Board Member Appointment.”

Executive sessions are allowed by state law to be held in private, out of the public eye, for several reasons. The most normal reasons are the discussion of a matter regarding personnel of the authority over whom the board has ultimate control or legal briefing on pending litigation, contracts or other legal matters.

In the case of the questionable item on Tuesday’s board agenda, none of those reasons exist.

While HCSWA board members may be thought of as personnel of the authority, they are not hired, fired, or dealt with in any other manner by members of the HCSWA board or other agency officials. They are strictly within the purview of Horry County Council.

HCSWA board members are nominated either by the League of Cities or the Horry County Council. Board members are appointed by vote of county council Nobody associated with the HCSWA is involved in the process in any manner.

HCSWA board members receiving “legal advice regarding upcoming board member appointment” is akin to the HCSWA board receiving an executive session briefing on legal matters regarding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

The board has no authority in either above example and should not be wasting the time and money involved in receiving a briefing from the HCSWA counsel. Furthermore, it strikes me that the HCSWA counsel should know this is not an appropriate agenda item, especially in secret executive session.

Despite no need and no authority over the executive session item, expect the HCSWA board to go forward with this exercise in overreach.

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Budget Time for Local Governments

March 21, 2017 1:02 PM
Budget Time for Local Governments

This week will see several local governments, particularly Myrtle Beach and Horry County, in budget workshops as next year’s revenue and spending is considered.

If you have never seen the local budget process in action, you should consider at least watching some of the workshop meetings on local cable television or live streaming on the internet.

After all, it’s your money they are spending and services for you they are supposed to be providing.

Much of the discussion will be on the agencies’ respective general funds. Those are the funds that pay for public safety, public works, administration and so forth.

For each agency, approximately 65% of general fund expenditures are for personnel pay and benefits.

However, the respective general funds are not the only budget areas that affect local citizens.

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority, which is a component unit of Horry County Government, is asking for a $7 per ton increase on the cost of dumping municipal solid waste (household garbage) at the Highway 90 landfill.

If county council approves a rise in the SWA MSW tipping fee, every household and business in the county will be paying more for garbage disposal.

The City of Myrtle Beach parking fees, which go to the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation and are currently helping fund the taking of businesses through the use of eminent domain, are a problem for all county residents.

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SWA to Ship More Trash Out of County

March 6, 2017 5:22 AM
SWA to Ship More Trash Out of County

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) will be shipping more construction and demolition trash out of the county in the coming months to meet requirements of Horry County Council.

When the SWA received council permission to change its budget in order to process recyclables from Charleston County, Horry County Council told the SWA that no airspace at the SWA landfill on Hwy 90 could be lost to Charleston trash.

Since the SWA landfill is the only facility in which Horry County municipal solid waste (household garbage) is disposed, council’s concern was that the full landfill capacity be saved for Horry County residents.

In approximately five years, MSW and C&D waste from Horry County will be commingled in the SWA landfill, according to SWA officials. The landfill’s available disposal volume for Horry County trash is currently projected to run out in 2042.

In order to meet council’s requirement, SWA executive director Danny Knight told council the SWA agreed to ship C&D waste, currently disposed at the SWA, out of county in an amount equal to Charleston residual trash resulting from the SWA/Charleston County recycling contract.

“We have structured a program where we (SWA) will match ton for ton, day for day, however you want to do it, we will send that much material out of our landfill to a landfill across the river,” Knight told the Horry County Infrastructure and Regulation Committee at its September 24, 2015 meeting.

SWA then board chairman Lance Thompson reiterated Knight’s statement at the same meeting, “This will be a net neutral effect. Anything that’s coming to our landfill from the direction of Charleston County, we’re going to send out (of county) the same amount of C&D…”

After an extensive study of SWA reports related to the Charleston County recyclable contract, Grand Strand Daily determined that requirement was not being met.

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HCSWA Asking for Fee Increase

January 9, 2017 5:17 AM
HCSWA Asking for Fee Increase

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority (HCSWA) will ask Horry County Council to approve an increase in tipping fees at the authority’s Hwy 90 landfill site.

The increase will be part of the HCSWA budget submission to council for the coming fiscal year which begins July 1, 2017.

The requested increase results from a Cost of Service and Rate Study recently completed for the HCSWA by independent consultant HDR Engineering.

According to that study, HCSWA has one of the lowest tipping fees in the state for municipal solid waste (MSW). The Hwy 90 landfill currently charges $29 per ton for MSW while the average MSW tipping fee at public and private landfills around the state is $42.71 per ton.

The HCSWA tipping fee has not increased in 18 years.

According to the HDR study, if the tipping fee at the Hwy 90 landfill does not increase, by 2024 the HCSWA will experience a cumulative budget deficit of over $32 million.

This calculation is based on a test year of 2016, with projected revenues and expenses at the HCSWA for years 2017 through 2024 inclusive.

What is interesting to note is the HCSWA had excess revenue of $4.093 million in 2016 with $8.46 million in tipping fee revenue against a revenue requirement of $4.369 million for the authority to break even.

In 2017, the excess revenue required jumps to $11.397 million against tipping fee revenue of $8.624 for a deficit of $2.77 million. The projected deficit increases year by year from that point.

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Revenues, Expenses and the HCSWA Budget

April 18, 2016 6:30 AM
Revenues, Expenses and the HCSWA Budget

The HCSWA budget is in its final preparations before being included in the overall Horry County Government budget as it is every year.

While the Horry County Solid Waste Authority budget has been included as a section of the county budget since its inception in the early 1990’s, Horry County Council has paid little to no attention to it when approving its annual fiscal year budget.

This year is different. Some council members are actually paying attention to the HCSWA budget.

That is a good thing. It was prompted by the initial request of the HCSWA for an increase in tipping fees at the county Hwy 90 landfill.

Tipping fees are the cost, ultimately paid by the citizens of the county, of burying waste in the ground.

To its credit, the HCSWA has essentially charged the same tipping fee, with some minor variations, since 1992. To its detriment, for many of those years, the tipping fee charged to the citizens of the county was too high.

I remember one former executive director of the HCSWA commenting over a decade ago that so much money (from tipping fees) was coming into the authority coffers, it didn’t know what to do with it all.

A lot of the excess revenue got wasted on purchases of land that was not needed, public relations campaigns, lobbying fees, attorney fees, even bugs that theoretically would extend the life of the landfill, but, in fact, died.

While some of this sounds funny, millions upon millions of public dollars were wasted by a succession of HCSWA boards and the indifference of county council.

Now, the HCSWA is in somewhat of a cash crunch, somewhere between $500k-$1,000k projected shortfall in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016.

The first inclination of the HCSWA staff and board was to raise tipping fees. County council said “NO”.

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Horry County Council Looking at Deficits

March 10, 2016 6:15 AM
Horry County Council Looking at Deficits

Horry County Council is taking a close look this week at projected deficits in the Horry County Solid Waste Authority and Horry County Department of Airports.

The HCSWA board heard of a revised projected deficit of nearly $600,000 for the coming fiscal year earlier this week.

The deficit comes mainly from higher costs, including personnel pay and benefits and increased construction cost projections for the authority’s landfill expansion.

However, the recycling agreement with Charleston County also continues to operate in the red.

The airport deficits all come on the general aviation side of operations, according to a report by HCDA to the Horry County Transportation Committee earlier in the week.

According to HCDA statistics, Grand Strand Airport is losing approximately $304,000, Conway Airport approximately $200,000 and Loris Airport approximately $100,000. The only thing keeping the fixed base operations at Myrtle Beach International profitable are fuel sales to military aircraft using the facilities.

The above number for Grand Strand Airport does not include approximately $165,000 spent in legal fees during the current fiscal year for the ongoing lawsuit with Skydive Myrtle Beach.

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HCSWA Board Studies Tipping Fee Increase

March 2, 2016 5:28 AM
HCSWA Board Studies Tipping Fee Increase

During a pre-budget meeting last week, the HCSWA board directed staff to come up with a proposal for raising tipping fees for municipal solid waste.

The increase is necessitated by increasing costs of running the Horry County Solid Waste Authority, especially delays in procuring equipment and making other improvements on the landfill site.

According to information provided at the meeting, the HCSWA preliminary budget for FY 2016-17 shows a deficit of $1,110,686. The HCSWA consultant engineer has also recommended an additional $1.25 per ton be added to reserve funds for future closure and post closure costs. The authority currently puts aside $6.25 per ton toward those future costs.

Additionally, several sources said the vertical expansion to the landfill, which will increase the life of the landfill until approximately 2035, is costing more than initially expected.

Each $1 increase in tipping fees produces approximately $250,000 in revenue for the authority. Therefore, an increase of from $4-$6 per ton in the MSW tipping fee will be studied.

The current tipping fee for MSW is $29.50 per ton of which $2.25 per ton goes to Horry County government for the county wide 911 communications system.

In 1995, the HCSWA was charging $30 per ton with no money going to county government, according to authority staff.

Therefore, it is not unreasonable for an increase in tipping fee to be needed at this time.

According to HCSWA staff, the statewide average tipping fee for MSW is $35 per ton.

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