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County Council, March 25

Inconclusive meeting on incinerator issue

Warwick Jones

If attendees were looking to a final decision on whether to renew the incinerator contract, they were disappointed. Council met at a special Finance Committee meeting yesterday to consider the matter. Almost immediately after the meeting started, the Committee went into executive session where it remained for the better part of an hour and a half. There after, the Committee approved a motion by Council member Condon that the County adopts the recommendation of its consultant to move to achieving a 40% recycling goal, and for staff to study the options available to the County. From the Chairman’s earlier comments, these options would include the disposal of waste at sites in Dorchester and Berkeley Counties.

And that was it.

The operator of the incinerator, unless it takes an immense risk, is not going to buy the facility by April 1, the date its purchase option expires. Legally, the date is significant as the owner of the facility can now make other arrangements. But what other arrangements can it make? The County is the logical customer and we suspect that the owner of the facility will extend the option date. Those Council members who want to retain the incinerator also expect an extension will be possible, we believe.

For the record, the County owns the land on which the incinerator stands, the actual facility is owned by AT&T (from Post and Courier reports) and Monteney Charleston Resource Recovery is the operating company. The latter wished to buy the facility and to renew its contract with the County. Its present contract expires at the end of this year. It also says that if the contract is renewed it will upgrade pollution controls and make other improvements.

We can only speculate as to why a vote was not taken after the executive session. We know emotions ran high about the issue of the incinerator. Whatever the outcome of a vote on its closure, it would have been close. We don’t know what was said in the executive session, but considering the passions expressed by some members at other Finance Committee meetings, it wasn’t “sweetness and light”.

We are reminded that Council did vote to close the incinerator in early 2008. That vote still stands of course.

Considering the heat that the incinerator issue has generated in the community, we were surprised at the relatively low turnout at the meeting. In anticipation of a large crowd, the meeting was held in the main Council chamber. But there were probably less than 40 members of the public in attendance. Some folk who supported the retention of the incinerator, or more accurately, opposed the growth of the Bees Ferry dump, had posted some 20 or more signs along the road to the Council building.

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