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County Council, February 6

No term limit for County Chair
Site for new recycling facility to be purchased for $2.78 million
Warwick Jones

We thought there might have been some heat generated in the meeting of the Administration Policy/Rules Committee. There wasn’t. Indeed, some Council members may have been unhappy with the status quo but they were not about to change it.

The issue was the tenure of the Council Chair. Presently the Chair is elected by Council members at the beginning of each year and serves for only that year. However the incumbent can be re-elected each year and serve indefinitely. What the Committee had to consider was whether the tenure of the Chair should be confined to two consecutive years. In year three, the incumbent could not serve again but could stand again in year four or thereafter.

The Chair of the Committee, Council member Rawl reminded the Committee that the election of a Council Chair had been very contentious in recent years. The inference was that the introduction of a two year term limit would ease the process. Council Chair Pryor has held the position for over 6 years and clearly some Council members were unhappy about his continued tenure. We would add that Council member Rawl, who placed the issue before his Committee said in the past that the amendment was not aimed at Chairman Pryor. He thought a term limit would be a good to expand experience of Council members, and for new ideas.

Council member Schweers, a sometimes critic of Chairman Pryor was the first to speak to the issue. He surprised us but his comments made sense. Yes, he was in favor of term limits in principle but in the case of County Council, he wasn’t. There were only 9 members of Council and most members had full time jobs. It was not possible in his opinion for the County Chair to fill that role and work a full time job. He said he certainly could not do it. Consequently, there were usually only a few members of Council who could serve as Chair. He also added that given that there were only 9 members of Council, Council members knew each other very well, and knew whom (or what) they were voting for.

Council member Summey spoke next and endorsed the comments of Council member Schweers. He added that his full time job certainly precluded him from standing for Chair. He also drew on the experience of his politically active family and the time needed to serve constituents.

Chairman Pryor also spoke and endorsed the opinions of Council members Schweers and Summey. He noted that although he was employed by the City of North Charleston, he was given considerable latitude in his attendance and schedule to deal with County matters. He also pointed to the experience of Dorchester County. It had introduced term limits for its Chair and effectively locked out the best man for the job.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Committee Chair Rawl called for a motion. There was silence. So the issue died and the status quo remained.

The only item of note on the Finance Committee meeting agenda related to the new Materials Recycling Facility (MRF). Council was asked to approve the purchase of a 19.9 acre site on Palmetto Commerce Parkway for $2.78 million. The site is still subject to further environmental studies but the Finance Committee approved the purchase subject of course to necessary due diligence studies. Council members Qualey and Sass opposed the purchase. Council member Qualey thought the site was inferior to that at Bees Ferry and Council member Sass thought the price was too high though he could support the sale at Tuesday’s full Council meeting after he had more discussion with staff.

The decision to buy was not unexpected in the light of discussions by the Committee in the recent past. Some Council members favored a site at Bees Ferry. It may well have been the most efficient location but was opposed by property owners nearby and the Mayor of the City of Charleston. Other sites had been studied and that now to be bought by the County was considered by staff to be the best.

Chairman Pryor spoke very favorably of the site noting some of the efficiencies it would bring to the Solid Waste collection system. But he also spoke of the possibility of using a new MRF to process recyclables from Dorchester and Berkeley Counties. The site was well located to serve these Counties. A higher throughput would lead to greater cost efficiencies.

County Administrator Taylor also addressed Council and spoke of the role of the Kessler Consulting to Solid Waste. The address was long and detailed. But in summary, the consultant will be around for some time while the County implements its expanded Solid Waste program and the new MRF is built. The consultant is also expected to advise on new technologies that could be introduced to the County process.

The retention of a consultant or the cost of the retention has been a continuing issue for some Council members. So it was not a surprise when Council member Rawl asked whether members of staff could do the job of the consultant.

County Administrator Taylor acknowledged that staff members could. But he noted that changes were still being implemented and planned in Solid Waste. Mr. Art Braswell had been hired to head the group. He needed to hire a deputy and make other changes. We presume when the changes are made the role of the consultant could be lessened. But in the light of the Administrator’s address, it seems the role of the consultant will diminish, not disappear.

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