Landfill bond delayed again

Andy Busbee of Michael Baker International addressed County Council about the Darlington County Landfill. Photo by Samantha Lyles

Andy Busbee of Michael Baker International addressed County Council about the Darlington County Landfill.
Photo by Samantha Lyles

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

Darlington County Council convened a special meeting April 11 to hear a preliminary report from engineering and management firm Michael Baker International (MBI) regarding the future of the Darlington County Landfill and Environmental Services Department.

In January, the county contracted with MBI to formulate a Solid Waste Management Plan and Feasibility Analyses report for a fee of $81,590, with the final report due in mid-May. MBI representative Andy Busbee presented council with some preliminary findings at this special meeting, chief among them that current revenues are insufficient to conduct operations long term.

“The trend that you’re currently on is unsustainable, from a budget standpoint in operating the landfill,” said Busbee.

Busbee noted that all operations for Environmental Services and the Landfill are funded by a $53 solid waste fee charged on property taxes, and by tipping fees (a $47.50 per ton average) paid by commercial dumping customers.

Previously, operations were supplemented by revenues from sales of recyclables, but since the county switched to single-stream commingled recyclables, the county simply gives those salable commodities to Sonoco and that company separates, packages, and sells them to vendors.

“You need to get 75-percent of the market value of your recycling. Now you’re getting zero,” Busbee said, adding that selling these items could generate $750,000 in annual revenue.

He suggested returning to separate recyclable collection units at the county’s 13 convenience sites and perhaps even hiring four new workers to open garbage bags and salvage recyclable items from the municipal solid waste stream.

Environmental Services currently uses numerous pieces of heavy equipment, like the Rex Compactor vehicle which compresses landfill surface and maximizes available space, that are decades beyond their normal service life. These vehicles routinely break down and cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair. Busbee said that replacing all necessary vehicles alone would cost approximately $4 million, and that’s not counting all the stationary equipment (such as transfer station conveyor belts) and facility improvements needed at the landfill.

Council has repeatedly delayed final passage of Ordinance 15-32, which would float a general obligation bond of $3.5 million to make landfill and Environmental Services improvements, and after hearing Busbee’s preliminary report they again voted to carry over the matter pending MBI’s final recommendations.

Author: Jana Pye

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