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Hilton Head gives initial OK to recycling plan

Town of Hilton Head Island officials took an initial step Wednesday toward an island-wide residential recycling program following a lengthy debate and a number of revisions to the plan.

The town council voted 5-2 on the first reading of an ordinance awarding a five-year franchise for residential waste and recycling collection to Republic Services. A separate five-year franchise agreement was also approved with Sonoco Recycling to process the recycled materials collected.

Council members Bill Ferguson and Bill Harkins voted against the ordinance.

"It is an important goal to increase dramatically the level of recycling on this island," Harkins said in explaining his vote, "but the town should set standards for haulers and require all haulers (to) provide recycling. It's good for the image of the town and it's good for earth, but customers should pick and chose" not the town.

Ferguson agreed, as did Drew Laughlin, who said he reluctantly voted for the ordinance.

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

"Those benefits outweigh the concerns," said Laughlin.

The council will consider a second and final reading of the ordinance at its next scheduled meeting Nov. 17.

OPPOSITION TO THE PLAN

The ordinance was passed with several revisions, including one removing an incentive-based recycling program, saving residents $2.55 on their quarterly bills.

Several residents and condominium regime managers criticized the proposal, saying it will lead to cost increases and harm local hauling businesses.

Others said they are worried about poor service and objected to not being allowed to choose a different hauler.

"I'm in favor of a recycling program, but not this approach," said Bob Houlihan, president of the board of directors at the Turnberry Village regime. "This will increase cost for regimes and multi-family (communities), while significantly decreasing cost for single-family homes. Regimes are dealing with foreclosures and delinquencies and this will make it worse. We've been frozen out of the process."

WHAT IT WOULD COST

The quarterly fee to collect trash and recyclables -- ranging from $52.50 to $60 for single family homes -- 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 $35 to $42 per unit every three months for condo complexes, apartments and villas.

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

Kevin Caruso, president and CEO of Association Services, Inc., argued members in 32 of the regimes the company oversees will pay up to $10 more a month.

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

Islanders who already have recycling contracts could continue to use those companies for up to 18 months.

Condominium owners, however, would not be allowed to opt out unless the entire regime opts not to use Republic Services.

A amendment to exclude condominiums from the ordinance failed.

Residents would have a choice of twice-a-week trash and once-a-week recycling pick up or once-a-week pickup for both.

The plan excludes commercial properties and residential complexes where trash is placed in Dumpsters. Town officials said service for those communities will be addressed later.

The agreement, if approved, would take effect in April.

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