Ward 4 candidates clash over island recycling proposal

Both candidates running to replace John Safay on Hilton Head Island Town council agree on the need to diversify business on the island, but differ when it comes to a proposed islandwide recycling program.

Mary Amonitti, a home-care company marketing representative, is running against local publisher and fellow Palmetto Dunes resident Kim Likins in the Nov. 2 nonpartisan election for Ward 4.

Safay is among a field of seven candidates vying to replace Mayor Tom Peeples, who is not seeking reelection. Safay's council term expires in December.

Amonitti and Likins spoke during a forum Thursday moderated by the League of Women Voters at Town Hall. More than 30 people attended.

Both candidates said they support the creation of an economic development entity to attract business to the island. Both support the revitalization of the Mall at Shelter Cove and Coligny Plaza. Both support extension of the Hilton Head Island Airport runway. Both support the creation of a town staff position dedicated to economic development on the island. Each also supports streamlining the town's Land Management Ordinance to be business friendly.

Amonitti said she would create a "brain trust" from the many business leaders in the community.

"I've always found you cannot put your eggs in two baskets, which Hilton Head has done" with tourism and real estate, she said. "Those markets are suffering. We need to diversify. We are not set up for business to come."

Likins said she would champion innovative ideas to keep Hilton Head Island a world-class community for residents and guests.

"Now is the time for economic development on Hilton Head," she said. "We need to promote, advocate and facilitate new business on the island."

The two differ on how the town should go about implementing an island-wide recycling program.

Likins supports the current proposal before Town Council. Amonitti is against it.

Town Council is considering a five-year franchise agreement with Republic Services for residential waste and recycling collection.

Amonitti said she residents were wrongly led to believe the agreement pertained only to single-family housing. Instead, the proposal addresses service to all residential housing on the island, including condominiums, villas and apartments. Some condo and villa owners have complained the proposal would lead to significant cost increases.

"There are flaws in the plan," Amonitti said, criticizing money the town would receive from a franchise fee and rebate on recycled material collected as "kick backs."

Likins said she is hopeful the current plan will be approved and is a strong supporter of recycling.

The concerns villas and condominiums have should be addressed, but it's important the community "put a stake in the ground and say we're committed to recycling," she said.

Likins also suggested the town move quickly to address recycling for commercial properties and look at creating a "drive-through" recycling site for visitors at town-owned land along North Forest Beach Drive.

"Visitors come with a car-full of things they throw away in stores," she said. "It would do a world of good -- and good will -- to have drive-through recycling."