Got garbage? Then in Hernando County, you probably have questions.

County swamped with customer calls as automated garbage service approaches.
Republic Services is set to deploy new garbage cans to customers in Hernando County as part of its program to automate pickup. Courtesy Jay Rowden
Republic Services is set to deploy new garbage cans to customers in Hernando County as part of its program to automate pickup. Courtesy Jay Rowden
Published January 17

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County officials have worked to educate the community about the new automated garbage collection system that starts in February, but questions and confusion abounds.

Customers continue to contact the county and trash hauler Republic Services and to post on social media about the changes, which have included the delivery of approximately 60,000 new rolling trash cans.

Previous coverage: What's Santa bringing Hernando County residents? Big blue garbage cans

The Tampa Bay Times has compiled the following answers to recurring questions:

How much has the cost increased?

Rates for regular customers increased from $9.21-$10.47 a month to $13.49 a month.

Rates for customers in the mandatory trash collection zone in Spring Hill increased from $8.18 to $14.40 a month. Those residents are now billed with their property taxes, and the increase includes the processing costs for placement on the tax bills. The annual trash collection cost added to the 2019 property tax bill was $172.80.

Commissioners said they examined rates in surrounding jurisdictions and agreed to the Hernando increase because the bills continue to be among the lowest.

Commissioners signed the seven-year, no-bid contract with Republic in 2017. Republic Services has made campaign contributions to commissioners Wayne Dukes and Jeff Holcomb.

Why is garbage collection mandatory in Spring Hill?

In the 1980s, Spring Hill had a problem with illegal dumping in the area, and residents requested mandatory garbage collection in hopes of having a cleaner community. Spring Hill citizens voted on and approved mandatory garbage collection twice — first in 1987 and again in 1992.

Why was my January payment refunded and then deducted again?

In late December, the county mistakenly subtracted payments from approximately 4,500 mandatory-zone customer accounts a week early. The county immediately processed credits to those accounts. Then on Jan. 2, the proper debits were processed, according to Gordon Onderdonk, county utilities director.

For further information, customers can email the utilities customer service department at [email protected] or call (352) 754-4037.

Am I paying twice for my bill in the mandatory garbage zone? I was billed on my tax bill in the fall, and I've received a bill this month on my utility statement.

Residents in the mandatory zone get their last garbage utility bill in January, covering service though December 2018. Their property tax bill received in October is for service through 2019. There was no double billing, just an overlap in the mechanism used to bill.

When can I start using my new trash can?

Begin using new trash cans the week of Feb. 4. By the end of January, customers will be notified by mail of possible changes in pick-up days.

What if I want a different size of trash can?

There will be a 30-day window in May for customers to swap their cans for a different size. Republic Services will notify customers when this opportunity is available.

Officials say that the new, automated service is safer and more effective. How?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks refuse collecting as the fifth most fatal occupation. The new trucks require only one employee, who does not leave the truck to collect garbage. This decreases the risk of injury or death by automobile, and improves efficiencies. Using an automated arm also reduces the incidence of workers compensation injuries associated with repeated lifting of garbage cans or exposure to chemical and biological hazards.

Will the automated trucks with an arm to dump trash cans be used throughout the county?

No. Republic Services will use semi-automated service in rural areas. These trucks have a tipper instead of an automated arm to lift the carts. These trucks will have two drivers.

Who do I call if I have additional questions?

Call (352) 540-6457.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434. Follow .