Beaufort County's waste transfer stations help move a lot of trash and recyclables very efficiently and conveniently for thousands of residents and property owners.
Whatever the county does to address the problem of out-of county users at its 11 transfer stations, it should be careful not to punish those who pay for the service and rightly use the facilities.
That includes making it harder to get in and out of the facilities, especially on busy weekend days,and making it more difficult for people who live outside the county or outside the state, but who own property here, to dump their trash.
County officials have talked about requiring a windshield decal at a cost of a $1 or $2 to dump trash at the stations. They cite increased use at the Simmonsville Road and Pritchardville stations and point to Sun City Hilton Head residents who live on the Jasper County side of their community as likely culprits.
Jim Minor, county solid waste manager, said he saw the problem three months ago when vehicle counts at the Simmonsville center rose from an average of 30,000 a month to nearly 38,000.
We don't like the idea of having to pay for a decal to show we have the right to dump our trash at stations we already pay for. That punishes taxpayers for the sins of out-of-county residents. If a decal is the preferred solution, they should be sent or given to property owners when they pay their property taxes.
If non-resident trash is truly a problem and costing the county a lot of money in dumping and hauling fees, then preventing it should free up enough money for the county to afford decals for its taxpayers. And the county should send out more than one decal per household. People should have flexibility on which of their vehicles they use to haul trash.
County officials also should consider a scenario that is not all that uncommon in this area: out-of-state visitors taking trash to the transfer station for elderly relatives.
Closely monitoring who uses the transfer stations to get rid of residential trash and recycling also raises concerns about the need for increased staffing and exactly how it will be done. We foresee long lines and backed-up traffic, especially at the busy Simmonsville Road station, if each vehicle is to be checked for a decal and those without them turned away.
Before the county proceeds, it should quantify the non-resident use so that officials can weigh that cost against the cost for policing who uses the facilities.
The county also should be careful not to create a system that encourages illegal dumping, something the transfer stations have helped to greatly reduce.