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County outlines plan for Bethune’s recycling center

Posted: September 27, 2013 5:08 p.m.
Updated: September 30, 2013 5:00 a.m.

A proposal to move a Kershaw County recycling center in Bethune will not take place for the moment, following a Sept. 12 public meeting with members of Kershaw County Council, Bethune Town Council and local citizens. Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter, Asst. Administrator Allan Trapp and county councilmen Tom Gardner and Sammie Tucker Jr. attended the meeting as did Mindy Spires-Miller of the Waste Management company.

According to an audio recording of the meeting provided by a Bethune resident, Carpenter referred to the recycling center as a “convenience center;” it is currently located at 108 Walton St., on the northwest side of Bethune about a block from U.S. 1. Residents recently learned of a proposal to move the center to county-owned property near the Bethune Golf Course and Bethune Elementary School on the opposite side of town.

“We’ve been having, for quite some time, people calling with concerns about the facility,” Carpenter said. “It’s located on property that the town has allowed us to use -- its owned by the town. There have been complaints of appearance, odor and flies.”

Carpenter said those complaints led county staff to look into doing “something better.”

“We determined that the county owns some land, pretty close, still in the vicinity, but it would be bigger, more developed and essentially, nicer,” he said, but acknowledged that response to the proposal has been mixed.

He said the proposed location used to be the greater property of the school and, specifically, where a set of old tennis courts are still located.

“That was the location we picked, in part, because the county owns it. We don’t have to acquire land and buy it. It’s not immediately next to houses or businesses, which is the issue with the current facility, but it’s still close enough to everybody,” Carpenter said.

He said the proposed site is larger than the current one, but “not huge,” and would provide better access to dumpsters and residents using it. It would also have covered shelters for motor oil and other services, and a small house-like building for attendants to shelter from inclement weather.

“That is the plan for trying to resolve the concerns for a facility that is not meeting your needs or performing the services you want,” Carpenter said, asking residents what they thought and for suggestions and alternatives.

Resident Steve Graham, one of the few present at the meeting who expressed favor with the proposed move, said the current location is within 800 feet of eight to 10 homes and approximately 15 businesses. Graham said the proposed site is at one corner of the school -- 900 feet from the main entrance -- and about the same distance from a single residence.

“The proposed location is good for town; good for everything,” Graham said.

Others, however, voiced concern about their children being near the recycling center.

“That’s a consideration,” Carpenter acknowledged. “We currently have a facility in the county, in Lugoff, located immediately adjacent to Wateree Elementary and a complex of four ball fields.”

He also pointed out that there is a landfill in that vicinity and that Wateree is one of the largest elementary schools in the county.

“We have existed next door to a school for a long time, and I’m not saying it’s ideal,” Carpenter said, but added he has yet to hear that it’s a major problem from the school, district or parents.

Carpenter said the county wants to work on the problem of odor and flies at the current Bethune recycling center site.

“If they can eliminate that problem, make it not visible by buffering with trees -- it wouldn’t be perfect, but it wouldn’t attract too much attention. Also, it doesn’t have that much traffic,” he said. “The best we can do is find the solution that satisfies the most people and minimizes the amount of harm.”

Carpenter outlined four options:

• Leaving the center where it is currently located.

• Move it to the proposed county-owned site, at no cost to Bethune.

• Accept a donation of land to use that wouldn’t generate much opposition.

• Shut the recycling center altogether, forcing residents to go to other locations.

“I’ve heard that (the first option) is not palatable to a lot of people. If we were to acquire land we don’t own, along with building a facility, we’re talking a total cost of land and everything else involved -- we’re talking approximately $120,000. It’s hard to find something to put a dumpsite on. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it is certainly hard,” Carpenter said.

Graham suggesting moving the center would move the stink away from Main Street.

Another woman asked not to move the center, but “hire people who can take care of it and keep it clean.”

Yet another woman said she lives near the current site and has bobcats, foxes, deer and other wild animals come into her yard.

“If the dump is moved near the school, then those wild animals would be near children. I say no!” the unidentified woman said.

Carpenter confirmed for a third woman that, if the county is not willing to buy land, the only two options are to either clean up the existing site or move it to the proposed site near the school.

When asked for her input, Spires-Miller apologized to the town.

“I came out here today and I’m really embarrassed,” she said. “The county and tax dollars pay my company to take care of your waste. After seeing this site, the odor and the way the containers look and the compactor being broken, we’re bringing in a new compactor.”

Spires-Miller said they will get county solid waste employees to wash down the area in an effort to eliminate odors.

“The stink is coming from the material coming out of the containers. They will also be bringing new containers to switch out the broken ones. I haven’t paid as close attention to this Bethune site as I needed to, and I sincerely apologize,” Spires-Miller said, adding that whether the site is moved or not, it will stay cleaned up.

Carpenter said he wasn’t asking Miller to take the blame; that if townspeople are angry, they should be angry with the county. He also said he wants the county to take care of the situation in a timely manner. Carpenter said building a new recycling center could allow the county to design it so that fluid doesn’t run off into the street.

At one point, a woman asked if drains could be built in to the existing site. Carpenter said that would actually be more costly than building a new site.

Carpenter said the county would consider buying new land if someone would sell them land “at a fair price.”

Gardner said he and Tucker were on hand to try and resolve the situation.

“The county owns the (proposed) land; we could say we’re going to movie it over here,” Gardner said. “But we didn’t want to do that; we want your input to solve this problem.”

Gardner said that was why Spires-Miller was at the meeting, but that it was, ultimately, the people of Bethune who have to live with and, therefore, make the decision.

One woman suggested the county hire employees for its sites who “actually care about doing that job.”

Carpenter said that “part of the solution … is making sure we have people who will do the job.”

Meanwhile, Carpenter said that “Step One” is to come up with an action plan to clean up the current site. “Step Two,” he said, would be looking at options for a new site.

“If we can’t come up with a better spot in about 90 days, the town must decide where it is -- move to the suggested spot or go to a new spot if one is offered. One way or another, they’ll come up with a conclusion by then after weighing all the possibilities. The goal is to find the best spot,” Carpenter said.

Bethune Mayor Carlisle Davis told Carpenter, Trapp, Tucker and Gardner that it would help if they would see the current site first-hand.

“We work for you,” Carpenter replied. “We represent you and we want to do right by you.”

With that, an action plan is now in place to clean up the site as soon as possible, see if a new site can be found within 90 days, and then have Bethune Town Council make a decision from Carpenter’s four options by the first of the new year.

Spires-Miller later confirmed that some of the containers at the current site had already been replaced.

“The compactor has (also) been remodeled and repaired. There are no leaks in it, and it’s fixed,” she said.

Spires-Miller also said that replacing other containers and cleaning the site is a “work in progress.”

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