Post Tagged with: "Horry County Solid Waste Authority"

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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I&R Committee Hears Charleston Recyclable Update

January 22, 2016 5:35 AM
I&R Committee Hears Charleston Recyclable Update

The Horry County Infrastructure and Regulation Committee heard an update on the Charleston recyclable deal yesterday.

As with any new operation, several months of experience is needed to determine if projections in the deal are becoming reality.

With five months of solid numbers now in place, it is possible to look at what Horry County residents can and cannot expect from the Charleston deal.

First and foremost, the HCSWA can forget any expectations of making a $1 million dollar per year profit on the contract that brings recyclables from Charleston County to Horry County for processing.

When Horry County Council reconsidered second reading of a budget amendment needed to approve the deal, council member Harold Worley asked if this deal would make money. HCSWA officials answered yes.

Not realizing too much of a loss will be considered a good result.

There are several reasons for this. The assumption of 14.5% reject rate of recyclables processed is much too low. The reject rate has been in the mid to high 20’s range and that is with the best interpretation of exactly what constitutes rejects.

For example, the months of Aug through Dec 2015 saw 21,382 tons of recyclables processed at the HCSWA. Of that amount, 13,192 tons of recyclables have been sold, leaving 8,190 tons not sold.

The HCSWA does not consider all of the 8,190 tons as rejects. Some is glass that is ground up and sold at $5 per ton by the HCSWA. In December, approximately 200 tons of glass was processed, according to the HCSWA. Another 600 tons remained processed on the floor waiting to be shipped out.

You get the idea, assuming only 14.5% rejects was a pipe dream.

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Charleston Contract Costing HCSWA

January 15, 2016 4:33 AM
Charleston Contract Costing HCSWA

The contract between Charleston County and the Horry County Solid Waste Authority for the HCSWA to process Charleston County recyclables is costing Horry County money.

With five months (Aug thru Dec) of solid numbers behind us, the HCSWA has lost approximately $130,000 processing Charleston County recyclables.

When the HCSWA entered into the contract with Charleston County, it was estimated the contract would bring a profit of approximately $1 million per year. That certainly does not seem to be the case with revenues from sale of recyclables over those five months totaling approximately $1.860 million and expenses totaling approximately $1.990 million.

The only thing saving the HCSWA from even greater losses was a three month amendment to the contract, which allows Horry County to not pay Charleston County for transportation costs related to bringing the Charleston County recyclables to Horry County.

The contract calls for Horry County to pay Charleston County $425 per truckload of recyclables shipped from Charleston County. These payments have been suspended for December through February. The suspension allowed the HCSWA to realize a modest $20,000 profit in December.

Several other line items are puzzling from the HCSWA’s latest report. Expenses associated with Charleston recyclables are less than expenses associated with Horry County recyclables. However, Charleston County recyclables are approximately double the amount of Horry County recyclables.

Additionally, a total of 21,382 tons of recyclables have been processed in the five months while only 13,192 tons have been sold. This leaves 8,190 tons of recyclables unsold.

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HCSWA Board Hubris Round Three

January 8, 2016 5:14 AM
HCSWA Board Hubris Round Three

Horry County Solid Waste Authority board chairman Lance Thompson sent a letter to Horry County administrator Chris Eldridge last month notifying Eldridge of the 5-2 vote by the HCSWA board recommending removal of Dan Gray from the HCSWA board.

The letter and its accompanying documents were obtained by GSD through a Freedom of Information Act request to Horry County government.

Included in the accompanying documents was a letter to Gray that states in part, “While the Board regrets having to make this decision, it has determined that you have engaged in an ongoing course of conduct, which appears to be designed to undermine the Board’s actions and to hamper the functioning of the Board in a deliberative manner.”

I submit the above statement is one of opinion, not fact. I further submit the HCSWA board rarely acts in a deliberative manner.

The HCSWA board certainly did not deliberate long on the decision to spend over $1 million of public money with a lobbyist to advocate against changing state law and local ordinances with respect to flow control of waste streams.

County council ultimately amended the county flow control ordinance over the objections of the HCSWA and its lobbyist.

I submit the entire issue of removing Gray from the HCSWA board is one of personal agendas of certain HCSWA board members, certain HCSWA staff and certain Horry County Council members. In other words, Horry County politics at its worst.

The HCSWA board has taken its vote and sent its letter. I expect that is as far as the issue will go.

Gray is a nominee of the League of Cities approved by vote of Horry County Council.

Council chairman Mark Lazarus has said he will not put the issue of removing Gray on council agenda if the League of Cities does not support the HCSWA vote.

Despite behind the scenes phone calls by some HCSWA board members to mayors in the county, sources tell me the League of Cities is firmly behind Gray remaining on the HCSWA board.

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