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Lexington County Council once again discussing mandatory curbside garbage pickup

Lexington, SC – 04/02/2021 (Paul Kirby) – Several Lexington County councilmembers say they expect the discussion of mandatory curbside garbage pickup will begin again soon now that a new county administrator has been hired. Filling that position had been their top priority in the first quarter of 2021.

According to Councilman Glenn Conwell, this was first mentioned at their annual retreat. During this event, intense work sessions are held that allow the council to focus on a number of key issues that are facing Lexington County. Much of what is brought up during the annual retreat may make their work calendar for the coming fiscal year. If the council thinks a topic is worthy, it can be added to their schedule and then be prioritized dependent upon its importance. Often, staff takes over at this point and begins working on the details of a specific task or agenda item.

Conwell said that the mandatory curbside garbage pickup has some very good reasoning behind it. The staff of the Solid Waste Department had informed the council that some of the more urban Lexington County Convenience Stations, the place where residents can dispose of their own household garbage and recyclables, were simply being overwhelmed. He pointed out that at peak times, traffic often backs up out of these sites causing traffic jams in the public roads.

“We’ve known for some time now that the convenience station on Riverchase Way has got to be moved,” Conwell said during a recent interview. “It’s in a bad spot and when it gets busy, traffic can back up into and clog Corley Mill Road.” Conwell also said that the staff of the department of Solid Waste had pointed out to the council that people carrying their own garbage often didn’t follow the tarping laws and this leaves unsightly litter along the main corridors leading to the stations.

Conwell also said that moving or adding a convenience station just isn’t as easy as it sounds. “Building them is the easiest part. The problem is finding a spot for them. Everyone wants the one off Riverchase moved and made larger, but no one wants it in their neighborhood. We’ve even tried moving it into a more industrial area and caught a lot of heat from people near that property too.” He also pointed out that if landowners find out that a government entity is looking at a property, all of a sudden, the price goes up dramatically.

“Most of the people in my district are already under some sort of mandatory curbside trash pickup program,” Conwell stated. “The City of West Columbia provides this service itself. In the urban areas, it just makes sense to have a can picked up at every residence. Skipping homes drives up the cost for everyone because the cost of operating a company’s fleet continues even as they drive by a home whose owner chooses to take their own garbage to the closest convenience station.”

Conwell says that he did support voting the measure out of committee because it’s what’s best for the people of his district. He said he understood it would be unpopular in the more rural areas of Lexington County and would be willing to consider limiting mandatory curbside to Neighborhood Appearance Districts that already have stricter rules because they are more urban.

When this proposal was voted out of committee, Councilmembers Larry Brigham and Scott Whetstone voted against the measure. They represent the most rural areas of Lexington County. The other seven members voted for the mandatory service.

Councilman Larry Brigham of Batesburg-Leesville said that he is, “adamantly opposed to any mandatory curbside garbage pickup for my district.” He said the plan in its current form would not include his area for several more years as it would be phased into the rural areas such as western Lexington County. Still, Brigham thinks that’s too soon. “There will come a day when we may have enough subdivisions and neighborhoods out our way to make this a good idea, but that day isn’t today, and I don’t think it will be here in a few years. Can you imagine these garbage companies servicing every home in Samaria, Pond Branch, or rural Batesburg-Leesville? Sometimes there’s miles between houses and some folks have driveways that are more than a thousand feet long. For that reason, I joined Councilman Whetstone of the rural district south of mine in voting against this measure. Still, we are just two of nine votes and the majority will rule.”

Brigham pointed out that he completely understands the fact that making curbside pickup would lower the cost of garbage pickup for everyone. He said he believed the cost being discussed right now is somewhere in the neighborhood of $250.00 per year or a little over $20.00 per month. When finally decided, the fee would be added to everyone’s annual tax bill as the ordinance is phased in. Brigham said he just doesn’t believe this is a pressing issue in the rural areas right now and that when it becomes one, they can readdress it.

Councilman Conwell said that now that Lynn Sturkie has been hired as the new county administrator, you can expect to see this back on the schedule and up for discussion again soon. “It’s my understanding that this is something that staff and the rest of the council are trying to get into place by the beginning of 2022,” Conwell said in closing. “Just watch the council agendas because there will be some more discussion and a public hearing before it can come up for a final vote.”

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