Charleston County saves lots of green for taxpayers
The Sept. 15 Post and Courier included Brian Hicks’ column titled “Going green carries sizable price tag,” suggesting that Charleston County is paying more than it should to develop the premier solid waste program in the Southeast.
To the contrary, the county’s Going Green initiative has saved millions. The county’s solid waste budget has been reduced from $43 million to $25 million because of efficiencies implemented by Kessler Consulting Inc. (KCI) resulting in a savings of $18 million in 2011. County Council has maintained a similar operating budget every subsequent year, while increasing services to the citizens of Charleston County. County Council hired KCI, the Florida-based planning and consulting firm, in 2008 to develop and implement an integrated solid waste management program.
While Hicks mentions a few of Charleston County’s many accomplishments in “greening” our solid waste management program, he unfortunately gives the impression that these accomplishments would have occurred without council’s leadership and KCI’s industry knowledge and technical assistance to the county. He also gives the impression that council’s leadership and KCI’s involvement are not integral to the county’s Going Green initiative.
While I respect the minority view of one dissenting council member relating to KCI’s role in Charleston County, the majority of council voted 8-1 to extend KCI’s contract for two more years. Council member Joe Qualey is entitled to his view that we do not need outside solid waste planning and industry technical assistance, but council disagrees.
The county has historically engaged outside assistance with its solid waste program. Unlike the past when the county paid millions of dollars over the years to other solid waste professionals with little results, today, the results we have seen through KCI’s work is measurable and financially beneficial.
For instance, in addition to the achievements cited by Hicks, the county has doubled recycling participation and more than tripled our recycling rate, saving valuable landfill space for the future. With KCI’s assistance, we now understand the cost per ton to operate our solid waste program, and in 2011 council provided a $3.5 million credit to the taxpayers on their solid waste user fee bill.
Council’s 40 percent recycling goal is only one part of our much larger goal to have the premier integrated solid waste management program in the Southeast.
Our taxpayers deserve no less. We have made great strides, but the program is not “on automatic.”
Councilwoman Anna Johnson, chair of our Solid Waste Committee, is working with KCI and staff to aggressively pursue ways to expand the single stream recycling program so that it can serve all residents countywide. We are developing a state-of-the-art materials recycling facility that when built will be able to handle the increased volume of materials collected in the County, and additional program improvements are on the drawing board.
A government that operates a landfill, numerous drop off stations and convenience centers, oversees two transfer stations, manages a recycling facility, and manages an extensive fleet of vehicles to collect recyclables countywide will always need outside solid waste planning and technical assistance if we want to keep pace with the solid waste industry. Under my leadership, we now have a consultant who adds real value to our programs, and ultimately, to our taxpayers.
In an 8-1 vote, County Council has expressed its complete confidence and support for KCI by renewing its contract.
This council looks forward to saving a lot more “green” in Charleston County.
Teddie E. Pryor Sr. is chairman of Charleston County Council.