Hilton Head trash-hauling franchise to begin April 1

Town-wide trash and recycling pickup will start April 1 on Hilton Head Island, after it was approved Wednesday by Town Council.

Council voted 4-2 to grant a five-year franchise to Republic Services Inc. to provide residential waste and recycling collection.

Council member Bill Harkins, one of the dissenters, said he supports recycling, but the town should set standards for haulers and require them to provide recycling, then let customers pick the haulers. He said that would limit the role of town government and permit free competition.

Councilman Bill Ferguson also dissented. He opposes having only one hauler. Council member Ken Heitzke was absent.

Other council members say contracting with one hauler will lower costs for most residents, improve efficiency and air quality, reduce wear on roads, and increase recycling rates.

The quarterly fee to collect trash and recyclables -- ranging from $52.50 to $60 for single-family homes -- is less than what many trash haulers now charge, according to information provided by service providers.

The cost is $35 to $42 per unit every three months for condo complexes and apartments -- an increase of $2 to $5 per month from what some currently pay. But those residents would get the added benefit of recycling services, town officials say.

Islanders who already have recycling contracts can continue to use those companies for up to 18 months after the franchise starts.

Residents will have a choice of twice-a-week trash and once-a-week recycling collection, or once-a-week collection for both services.

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

Condominium owners, however, would not be allowed to opt out, unless the entire regime or property management company chooses not to use Republic Services.

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 contract would generate $3.2 million in annual revenue, based on 72 percent of households -- 14,122 -- choosing to participate at an average rate of $19 per month. Five percent of that -- about $160,000 -- would go to the town as a franchise fee to market and administer the program.

The town would collect another $44,000 to $80,000 a year under an $18-a-ton rebate from Sonoco, which will process all recycled material collected.

Wednesday's final vote followed several delays because of concerns about the program's costs for apartments and condo complexes and loss of work for trash haulers. Town Councilman John Safay, however, said those concerns will vanish in time.

"Ultimately, this will be much better for us in the long run, and a year from now, we'll be wondering what all the fuss was about ... like the smoking ban," Safay said.