Waste not, want not

Photo by Brad Nettles. Charleston County Recycling employees take bails of paper and cardboard to a waiting trailer for shipping.

Charleston County’s recycling effort has achieved its initial goals of reducing the waste stream and preserving landfill space. And County Council wants to do more. For example, council is looking for a new headquarters for recycling.

The time is right for the county to put this program under a department head. For the past three years, it has operated under the authority of County Attorney Joe Dawson.

That has raised eyebrows among some council members — most notably Dickie Schweers and Joe Qualey — who have questioned how the county attorney could be expected to continue administering the solid waste department in view of his other county duties.

They also have questioned Mr. Dawson’s $90,000 a year stipend for the solid waste job, which he receives in addition to the $300,000 or so he gets in his role as county attorney.

“That’s $90,000 for a part-time job,” Councilman Schweers says.

Indeed, Mr. Dawson’s overall remuneration is so substantial that it should occasion a general discussion among council. But that’s a separate issue.

The county also has paid a consultant $1.4 million to help guide the county’s solid waste program since the focus shifted to recycling. Mr. Qualey has questioned why the consultant’s efforts are still needed, since it is generally acknowledged that the program is on the right track.

Council decided in November to approve an 18-month contract extension for the consultant, with Mr. Dawson continuing to provide solid waste oversight.

Nevertheless, County Administrator Kurt Taylor says he is preparing to bring the department under his authority, with the support of council. Applications will be sought for the department head position within two weeks.

“We have made great strides, and there is much more work to do to make us the premier solid waste and recycling program in the Southeast,” Mr. Taylor said.

The timing is right to have a full-time department head to oversee the solid waste program’s further development.