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County Council, February 10

Paper and not plastic bags for garden trash
No interest is selling or “privatizing” City garages
Warwick Jones

Come the end of June this year, citizens most likely will not be using plastic bags to dispose of their lawn and garden waste. The Finance Committee last night unanimously agreed not to accept garden trash in plastic bags at the Bees Ferry landfill after June 30. It expects that special paper bags will replace plastic bags.

The Committee noted that the municipalities would to decide how to handle this change as they picked up the trash. Presently the County removes plastic manually from some of the compost made from the garden waste. It is inferred we presume that the municipalities will have the option to continue collecting the debris in plastic bags but will have to remove the plastic before delivery to Bees Ferry. We think they’ll choose paper.

The Country has set a 40% recycling goal and to achieve this target, plastic bags need to go. The County has been processing part of the garden waste into “high quality” compost which is readily saleable to nurseries and others. This compost is free of plastic. The balance of garden waste which is composted contains plastic (from the bags) and although there is some demand for this product, it is limited. Much of it is placed in the landfill.

In consequence of its higher recycling goal, volumes of garden waste are increasing and taking up landfill space. By removing plastic from the compost and making its better quality, a greater proportion will be better quality and more ready saleable. A higher level of sales should take pressure off the landfill.

Council member Schweers was a tad skeptical about paper bags and their ability to endure. He thought the plan should be considered a trial. Council member Summey also thought that the cost of paper bags may be high. The County might purchase the bags and sell them on to the municipalities. The County was likely to get a better price as a larger bulk buyer.

Dead on arrival
The sale or “privatization of the County’s two parking garages on the Peninsula was briefly discussed, and dismissed at yesterday’s meeting. We don’t know who put the item on the agenda but it was probably related to another item – the authorization to complete the renovation phase of the garages at an estimated cost of $4.2 million.

Staff provided a lot of detail in the agenda package and made a summary presentation. It dismissed selling as acceptable. On a comparable sales basis the Cumberland Garage was valued at $20.26 million and the King and Queen Street Garage at $13.5 million. The sales would provide funds for capital needs but there were too many accompanying problems. Finding alternative space for staff at the Judiciary Center, jurors and others would cost an annual $2.2 million and would need to be drawn from the General Fund. Part of the Operating Surplus from the garages goes to the Debt Service Fund. If this were not available, a millage increase was likely. There were also obligations to the City of Charleston and St Philips Church both of which was party to the original Cumberland Garage construction agreement.

Staff chose to focus on “privatization” which it defined as retaining ownership and passing management control to a private operator. It seemed to us that most of the factors that stood in the way of selling also applied to “privatization”.

No Council spoke in favor of either a sale or privatization. We are not sure the issue was ever alive, but it seems very dead now. The Committee also approved completion of the final phase of renovation.

Briefing on Consolidated 9-1-1 Center
Staff also made a presentation about the proposed Consolidated 9-1-1 Center at Palmetto Commerce Parkway. The new building will house Consolidated Dispatch and should be completed by December 2012. The facility should be fully functioning within 6 months thereafter.

The cost of the building and the 15.3 acre site is estimated at $26.9 million. The floor space will be about 35,000 square feet. The building is also designed to allow expansion though this is not expected to be likely for at least 20 years

Chairman Pryor noted the seeming absence of windows in the structure and asked why? Well there were windows but they were minimal for security reasons related to hurricanes more than anything else. The building had to be very secure by nature of its purpose. Council member Schweers queried whether the Leeds Certification was necessary, and did the benefits justify the higher cost? Yes, they did, he was told. They may well be, but in our opinion, to reach such a conclusion was not possible on what was presented.

Council member Darby returns
Council Member Darby attended the Committee meeting yesterday. He has been absent for some month because of an injury sustained when he was hit by a car. If he has not made a full recovery, it must be very close. He chaired the Planning /Public Works Committee meeting without difficulty.
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