August 1, 2008

County May End Sunday Hours at Trash, Recycling Centers

By Michael Welles Shapiro, The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Aug. 1--Beaufort County may end Sunday hours at its 12 trash and recycling drop-off centers, a move not expected to be popular with many residents.

Currently, local facilities are open 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Six days a week, the county hauls its waste to Hickory Hill, a Ridgeland landfill. That facility is now closed Sundays. That means the county pays Republic Waste, a private hauler, to carry the trash to Savannah on Sundays.

But that's a short-term fix, according to Jim Minor, the county's solid waste and recycling superintendent.

Minor said he's received no assurances Republic will continue the Sunday trips.

He told members of the Solid Waste and Recycling Board at a meeting Thursday he'd prefer to end the local Sunday service so trash wouldn't pile up at area sites.

During contract renegotiation with Waste Management, the firm running the Ridgeland landfill, the county agreed to the Sunday closing there in order to get a better rate.

While cutting Sunday hours would be an inconvenience for residents, Minor said it would result in savings for taxpayers -- up to $100,000 a year in personnel costs, and up to $50,000 a year in hauling costs.

But some board members appeared hesitant about scaling back.

"If we knock out Sunday, it sounds like we're cutting service pretty hard," said chairman Earl Dietz.

Dietz, who represents St. Helena Island, predicted residents in rural areas would be particularly upset.

The towns of Bluffton and Port Royal and the city of Beaufort pay for curbside trash pickup for residents, and many homeowners on Hilton Head Island pay for curbside service individually.

That is not the case in many rural areas.

The board will vote on the proposed change at its meeting Aug. 21.

The measure will then move to the Beaufort County Council's Public Services committee. If approved there, it would go on to the full council.

If the proposal isn't approved, Minor said he would work with Republic Waste on a long-term solution.

Last month, Minor charted how many trips residents made to drop-off centers by the day of week.

The survey showed Saturday was the busiest day, with residents making 4,834 visits.

Sunday was the next most popular day, when residents made 4,561 trips.

Despite those numbers, Minor said he believes residents would eventually get used to the change.

"I think people could adjust to the six-day schedule," he said.


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