Beaufort County's 11 trash and recycling centers will reduce operating hours beginning Oct. 4, part of budget cuts county officials say were necessary to avoid a tax increase.
The change will cut each center's daily hours and close them on Wednesdays, which is expected to save the county about $100,000, according to county solid waste manager Jim Minor.
Most centers are currently open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, with the exception of four smaller centers in Sheldon and on St. Helena Island, Minor said.
The schedule change will mean the county's most-used waste facilities will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week, he said. The four smaller facilities will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday each week.
The reductions are part of County Council's plan to avoid a property tax increase by freezing or reducing funding to county departments and local agencies. County administrator Gary Kubic also has said the budget freeze will require the county to shed between 40 and 60 salaried positions by June.
The Solid Waste Department has 42 part-time employees at the centers, who each work about 28 hours every week, Minor said. Although the county does not intend to reduce the department's staff -- "We have the bare minimum to operate the facilities now," Minor said -- workers' hours will be reduced to about 20 per week, which might prompt some to seek employment elsewhere.
The new hours also reflect the traffic data for the centers, which indicate Wednesdays and the hours of 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. see the least use by residents, Minor said.
"We're hoping this will not impact too many people; that citizens will keep an open mind about it and adapt to the schedule," Minor said.
New signs displaying the center hours will be placed in October, along with advertisements alerting residents to the changes, Minor said.
He encourages residents to make weekday stops before or after work to reduce weekend loads on the centers. Centers in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island are particularly busy on weekends because the landfill where the trash is hauled closes at 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.