Beaufort County Council votes down trash transfer station on Chechessee site

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comNovember 18, 2013 

STAFF GRAPHIC

More than 43 acres owned by Beaufort County in the Chechessee area should not be an option for a trash transfer station, County Council agreed Monday.

Council members voted 6-5 to support a resolution opposing a trash-transfer station at 97 Chechessee Road off S.C. 170. The resolution also directs county administration to identify other uses or buyers for the property.

"I think it's the right thing to do," councilman Tabor Vaux said. "I'll never vote for a transfer station on such a critical piece of property."

However, the resolution is not a binding contract or agreement, and council could reverse its decision later, council chairman Paul Sommerville said.

"It's no guarantee," he said.

In May, the county paid $850,000 for the site near the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority office and announced it might one day become a trash transfer station.

For now, the county hauls its trash to the Hickory Hill landfill in Jasper County, owned by Waste Management. But that dump will be full in six to 13 years, county officials say.

The county is working on a long-term waste management plan, and transfer sites could be a solution, council member Brian Flewelling said.

Trash would be hauled from throughout the county to transfer stations, where it would be compacted, baled and loaded onto trucks destined for a landfill. Recyclable materials would be separated, baled and taken to processing facilities.

But the Chechessee site is not suitable for such a station because it's too important environmentally, Flewelling has said.

"My opinion is, preservation is the best use," he said.

Other sites are still being considered as possible transfer station sites, and the county is negotiating a contract for trash services with Waste Management, county administrator Gary Kubic said.

"We've exchanged offers and we still have not agreed," he said. "So we'll be reassessing our process and considering our next steps."

Kubic would not comment on specifics.

Eliminating the Chechessee site limits the county's options while negotiating for a long-term waste management deal, councilman Bill McBride said.

"This is a bargaining chip. We need to keep it on the table until we work out a long-term solution for solid waste in Beaufort County," McBride argued.

Councilman Stu Rodman and Sommerville agreed the resolution sends the wrong message to Waste Management and to the state legislature, which will consider legislation prohibiting trash transfer stations next year.

"I would like to not give up one option until I can see that we've got a better option," Rodman said.

Rodman, Sommerville, McBride and council members Gerald Dawson and Laura Von Harten opposed the resolution Monday. Council members Flewelling, Vaux, Jerry Stewart, Rick Caporale, Cynthia Bensch and Steve Fobes backed the resolution.

Rodman, Stewart and Flewelling all agree that building a trash transfer station, or stations, offer a long-term solution.

"We have the responsibility to take care of trash and to do it responsibly," Stewart said. "Without a trash transfer station, we're not going to be able to do that."

Rodman and Flewelling suggest building multiple, smaller stations, instead of one large countywide station, perhaps one station each to serve northern and southern Beaufort County, Flewelling suggested.

"We need to up the game and get very serious about building trash transfer facilities," Flewelling said. "I think we have a consensus on council not to dawdle because we haven't seen any commitment from Waste Management to help us solve our problem." Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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