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Beaufort County has suspended work on a new trash-collection center intended to replace the county-operated removal of industrial-sized garbage containers on Daufuskie Island.
The county, which had started site work last month, was required to pause, county administrator Gary Kubic said Friday, because a nearby landowner fighting the project in court is challenging a judge's ruling.
The 19-year-old facility -- intended for residents who do not get curbside service through a private community -- was supposed to be temporary and is in a historic Gullah neighborhood, opponents say. Opponents want the county to pick a different site and build a facility that could accommodate waste and recycling from people who live inside and outside the gates of the island's private communities.
Don Newton, a Virginia resident and plaintiff in the lawsuit, owns land within sight of the center.
He said the judge determined the county had an existing convenience center on the site and could therefore replace it with a permanent one.
But Newton contends that shouldn't be allowed because, among other reasons, the existing facility is informal and lacks water and sewer service.
"They don't even have a post in the ground," Newton said.
He and his wife, Jean, filed suit in Beaufort County court in February, arguing the county did not properly consider the community's interests.
Daufuskie residents have proposed other sites they believe would be better, and state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, recently asked the county to consider their concerns.
County staff and elected officials have investigated, however, and found no suitable alternatives, said County Council Chairman Weston Newton, whose district includes Daufuskie.
Without an alternative, the county could either improve the situation or leave a bunch of "boxes in the woods," he said.
The $300,000-plus project should pay for itself by creating a cleaner, more efficient operation, officials say. Covered containers equipped with compactors could cut in half the $100,000 the county spends each year to ship waste off the island by barge, they say.
The existing facility's unattended, open-air containers are difficult to monitor for illegal dumping, smell bad and attract vultures and vermin, according to officials.
Weston Newton said the county's choice comes down to: "Make things better and save $50,000 (per year) or do nothing."
The county has committed to working at the current site toward the island's wish for a more comprehensive system, he said.
Meanwhile, the county will ask the court to lift its "stay" so the work, funded with borrowed money, can continue, Kubic said. The county also will ask for an expedited hearing, he said.
If the appeal succeeds, County Council members could redirect the project's funds elsewhere while they look for a new way to collect waste on Daufuskie, Kubic said. That search would be time-consuming and costly and might not succeed, he said.