The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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County Council, January 29

Deadline for decision on County incinerator
Obligation of applicants for Board and Commission positions to be redefined

Warwick Jones

“And Council member McKeown can pay for the hire of the College of Charleston’s stadium!” Council member Rawl jokingly quipped at the close of last night’s meeting of the Finance Committee. He was of course alluding to the large number of citizens expected to attend the Finance Committee meeting on March 12 when the consultant to the County is scheduled to present its report on the options available for future waste disposal. The date is critical as the County has to give notice to the operator of the County incinerator as to whether its contract will be extended.

County has a number of options
Mr. Mitch Kessler, principal of Kessler and Associates told the Committee that work was underway assessing the options. He said that the County was lucky in that it had a number of options, unlike some counties in which he worked. He thought there were possibilities of reducing the amount of waste by greater recycling. As well, the County could continue incineration at the plant in North Charleston and there was still plenty of capacity of the Bees Ferry fill. There was also the option of trucking waste to sites in neighboring counties. However he gave no hint as to what he would recommend but opined that the operation of the incinerator was the single most important issue.

Council member Darby took issue with the consultant as to the option of continuing to utilize the incinerator. He said that Council has voted to cease operation. He was opposed to using the incinerator. It had been built with little regard to nearby residents who suffered from the dust and smoke. He threatened legal action if it continued to operate. Chairman Pryor spoke in a similar vein.

Council member Schweers was not sure that the Council had voted to close the incinerator and thought an assessment would be made in the light of the consultant’s report. Council member Thurmond seemed to agree with the Council member. He said that although half of the country’s incinerators had been closed in the last 20 years, 90 still were operating.

Strong support for closure by residents
Montenay Resource Recovery is the operator of the incinerator. Last year, it stated that if the contract were renewed, it would make investments to reduce noise and pollution. The present contract expires in January 2010. We attended the public meeting relating to the closure of the incinerator (County Council June 24, 2008). Listening to the grievances of the residents of the area surrounding the incinerator, it is obvious they countenance only one option – closure!

An onerous restriction on Board and Committee members
Nobody seemed to know how it came about. It must have been along time ago and County Attorney Dawson was asked to look into it and give the Administration Policy/Rules Committee an opinion. At issue was the obligation of County board and commissions members. A clause in the application form, signed by potential board and commission members, says that members cannot appear before any other of the County boards or commissions. As Council member Rawl stated, this meant that board or commission members could not appear before, say, the Planning Commission if their property was affected by a rezoning or other development. This was not right. It seems that applicants were signing the obligatory form, either ignoring the obligation or not knowing the full meaning of the constricting clause. But the clause was crossed out in a recent application, prompting staff to bring the matter before the Committee

Clause goes beyond State law
Attorney Dawson said that the clause went beyond State Law. And if the clause were struck from the application form, State law would apply. This would allow board and commission members latitude to appear before other boards and commissions. But it proscribes the use of their position on any board or commission to derive pecuniary benefit.

We suspect Attorney Dawson will recommend the replacement of the offending paragraph with something similar or identical to State law.

Should applicants appear before Council?
The Committee also discussed the whether those who applied for places on boards or commissions should be asked to appear before Council. As Council member Schweers said, he had to vote for people of whom he had little knowledge. It would be beneficial if they made short presentations to Council. Committee member Pryor was uneasy about this. He said that all the board and commission members served without remuneration and gave up considerable personal time. To appear before the Council could well deter some qualified persons from offering to serve.

Plan to bring the “snow boaters” back to Charleston
The Finance Committee voted to increase the permitted stay in County waters from 90 to 180 days before a non-commercial boat owner would be liable for property tax. The 90 day law was imposed by the State in 2006 but the State has now allowed Counties to revert to the 180 day limit that existed previously.

Horry and Beaufort Counties have increased their limits to 180 days and Georgetown is considering a change. It seems that many itinerant boat owners chose to bypass the State when wintering (or summering) down south when the 90 day limit was imposed. This had caused a considerable loss of revenue to marinas and suppliers. It is argued that if Charleston does not amend the permitted time, it will not participate in the likely return of “snow boaters” to the state. The impact in County revenues was “not known” to staff but our guess is “negligible”

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