Fort Mill Times

It isn’t just a Fort Mill site. Why taking out the trash is now a county concern.

Eric Rekitt, York County assistant public works director, stands next to bales of plastic soda bottles at The York County Public Works Recycling Center in York. Estimates for when a new permanent site in Fort Mill will be ready vary.
Eric Rekitt, York County assistant public works director, stands next to bales of plastic soda bottles at The York County Public Works Recycling Center in York. Estimates for when a new permanent site in Fort Mill will be ready vary. Herald file photo

York County officials, frustrated with the grinding pace of getting a new trash and recycling center in place, are calling for a review to make sure residents countywide don’t encounter the same problems.

“We’ve got to figure out why this is going to take two-and-a-half years from the time we first realized we had to do this,” said York County Council chair Britt Blackwell.

York County runs 16 trash and recycling collection sites. One on Tom Hall Street in Fort Mill closed in March after the property owner notified the county in November 2016 that the county lease wouldn’t be renewed. The county scrambled. A temporary site nearby opened.

Estimates for when a permanent site might be ready are in flux, with the latest made last week.

“The new completion date, according to this schedule, would be February of 2019,” said Eric Rekitt, county public works director. “That was kind of unsettling.”

The county was shooting for July. They put that date on signs at the temporary site to keep the public informed. The county signed a design contract in December, but later encountered problems with the 4.6-acre site off Fort Mill Parkway purchased last year.

About .2 acres of the site is wetland undiscovered before the county purchased it. The latest geotechnic report also found “unsuitable soils that will require undercutting and fill,” Rekitt said.

“The site is not unbuildable,” he said. “It’s just more challenges to overcome.”

And more frustration.

“At a minimum, we need to change our signs,” said Councilwoman Christi Cox. “The public needs to know.”

Cox and others want a review of the entire ordeal to see what they can avoid at sites countywide.

“We need to have a review of this and figure out what happened,” Cox said. “The other component of this was identifying other areas that are going to be in this exact same situation.”

Part of the response to losing the Tom Hall site is now the county prefers to own rather than lease sites. At the point York County learned the Fort Mill site was closing, there were two other leased collection sites, including the Baxter site through 2019. The Baxter site is the nearest to the temporary site at about an 8-mile round trip. For large and bulky items, Baxter is the only area option.

The county was looking at adding a third site to the growing Fort Mill area when attention turned to replacing the one it would lose. Rekitt said the temporary site will remain in place until a new site is finalized. He still needs to finalize a concept plan, minimize the impact to wetlands to use the property, get a public zoning use for the new property and meet with neighbors there.

“It’s still up and running,” he said of the temporary site.

As concerned as they are with getting the project finished, council members are just as interested in making sure nothing similar happens again.

“I don’t know how the county buys 4.6 acres and doesn’t do its due diligence to know that the soil is bad and that there’s a wetland in it,” said Councilman Michael Johnson. “I think this needs to be hashed out.”

Councilman Chad Williams would like to see progress before residents forget they’re using a temporary site.

“At this rate we’re going to have people complaining when we move it,” he said.

Buying land that, while not “unbuildable,” is presenting challenges so unforeseen is a problem county leaders want addressed.

“It’s distressing that we just don’t seem to be able to move this football,” Johnson said. “And if we were a private company, we would be asking. We would look inside at that point and say how did we mess up like this? How did we not know?”

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