Originally created 01/07/97

Aiken leaders uneasy about Three Rivers pact



AIKEN - Organizers have finally completed an operating agreement for an eight-county regional landfill at Savannah River Site, but the pact is vastly different from what Aiken County leaders say they were promised.

County council will consider the agreement with the Three Rivers Solid Waste Authority on third reading today, but it's not likely to pass, county administrator Bill Shepherd said.

"The service agreement is not consistent with what we originally agreed to," he said. "It's dangerous (right now). We have to obligate ourselves for 30 years."

The contract, as it now reads, would require Aiken and other member counties to foot the bill if a county drops out or fails to meet its financial obligations for the landfill, Mr. Shepherd said.

And the counties would be required to repay the bond even if the landfill is unable to open, he said. There's no legal obligation against the engineers or construction company if the landfill can't be used.

But projects manager Colin Covington said the concern is unwarranted.

"We have a legal recourse against any county," he said. "If a county has to meet a deficiency from another county, that doesn't mean the other county just walks away from this .°.°. We'll get the money unless a county is bankrupt."

Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young said Monday he hadn't reviewed the service agreement, but expected most of council's questions to be answered at its work session tonight. Mr. Covington plans to be on hand.

The project, estimated to cost about $15 million initially, would cover 1,100 acres at SRS and is expected to take in nearly 200,000 tons of garbage a year for 50 years. About 300 acres will be used for self-contained, monitored cells to store garbage.

It will cost slightly more for Aiken to dispose of garbage in the regional landfill, but that's better than building a new landfill independently, organizers have said. The county's current landfills don't meet federal disposal standards.

Meanwhile, council won't discuss a zoning change that would restrict where video poker outlets can be located.

A public hearing on the matter has been delayed until Jan. 28 because a planning commission proposal that takes a harder line on the games wasn't forwarded to council in time to be included on tonight's agenda, Mr. Shepherd said.

The planning commission recommended Dec. 19 to restrict the games to areas zoned Urban District and keep them 150 feet from neighboring properties. The council's current proposal was amended Dec. 17 to include only the setbacks.

At the same time, the council is expected to approve a new program that requires mobile home owners to display a decal on their trailer showing they paid their taxes on it each year.

In other business, council is expected to:

  • Approve the sale of 20 acres of land at the Savannah River Cooperative Research Campus to a group of Westinghouse employees who are privatizing the SRS's environmental monitoring program, which could mean 80 new jobs.
  • Establish the county's new hazardous materials team as a special rescue service so that volunteers can qualify for workers compensation.
  • Enact new criteria for roads maintained by the county to require a minimum 50-foot right-of-way, 24 feet of roadway and a five-foot shoulder on each side. Each road should also have at least three dwellings whose entrances front the road and are at least five years old.