Town Council divided on islandwide recycling plan

Support for an islandwide recycling program among Hilton Head Island Town Council members seems to be wavering.

Officials are considering a five-year franchise agreement for residential waste and recycling collection with Republic Services.

If the vote were held today, it's uncertain whether the agreement would be approved.

Councilmen Bill Ferguson and Bill Harkins oppose it.

Councilman Drew Laughlin is undecided.

Councilmen John Safay, Ken Heitzke and George Williams Jr. support it.

Mayor Tom Peeples said Thursday the agreement will not appear on Tuesday's council agenda. He said he is awaiting information from town staff clarifying the agreement's financial impact on condominium regimes and property-management companies. Peeples, though, said he's inclined to vote for the proposal.

"I think the facts will bear out that this is a no-brainer and we need to move ahead with it," he said.

Town officials say going with a franchise hauler will lower costs for residents, increase efficiency and recycling rates, improve air quality and reduce road wear and tear.

"This program is the right program for the island," Safay said. "It has been exhaustively examined. ... It would be a travesty if this proposal is voted down."

Concerns about price increases and harm to local hauling businesses are delaying the vote.

Harkins said the town should not be "selecting winners or losers." Rather, it should require all island waste haulers to provide recycling, allowing residents to "choose from the marketplace."

Laughlin, who voted for the proposal at the committee level, said he prefers that residential and commercial service be combined, which could lead to savings for participants. The plan excludes commercial properties and residential complexes where trash is placed in Dumpsters. Officials said service for those will be addressed later.

Laughlin said he also is unsure whether recylers should be required to participate in the RecycleBank program, which provides monetary incentives for recycling. He said some bidders were unable to partner with RecycleBank or find an equivalent program, possibly giving an unfair advantage to those that could.

Ferguson said he's concerned about local companies "eliminated" from the process and would like to see a contract before a vote occurs.

Safay said Ferguson "has it all backwards" and blames "misinformation" on delaying approval of the agreement.

"There is never a contract in a bidding process until the winner of the bidding is selected. It's the same with road work or any other town work," he said.

Williams said "it's high time" Hilton Head has islandwide recycling.

Heitzke said the proposal will benefit everyone, including condo regimes.

Residents could opt out of the trash and recycling pickup service but would have to haul their garbage and recyclables to a county-owned convenience center.

The quarterly fee to collect trash and recyclables -- ranging from $55 to $62 -- would be less than what many trash haulers now charge, according to information provided to The Island Packet by service providers.

The cost would be $44.25 per unit every three months for condo complexes. That's $14.75 per month, compared to the $10 to $14 per month condo regimes and property-management companies now pay for trash pickup without recycling, said Charles Cousins, town community development director.

The price could be reduced by 5 percent if the regime prepays for one year, and by another 3 percent if it uses a paperless invoice, Cousins said.

Residents can recoup part of their monthly fee through Republic's RecycleBank program, Cousins said. Participants earn points based on the amount they recycle, which entitle them to discounts at local businesses.