NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco residents' garbage rates won't be frozen next year, but they will be spared the brunt of the 16.5 percent increase that was set to take effect in January.
County commissioners on Tuesday approved a compromise that raises fees 6.4 percent in 2009. Maximum residential rates will go from $11.69 a month to $12.44. Commercial fees, which vary based on volume, also will rise by the same percentage.
In voting to raise rates, commissioners rejected a staff recommendation to hold the line next year due to an economy battered by foreclosures. Staffers also based their recommendation on the fact that the cost of diesel had gone down.
Haulers told commissioners the formula approved in 2007 actually measured expenses after the fact and said they had been hit hard by fuel prices that peaked near $5 a gallon.
"That equals about $170,000 a year," said Harold Sample, the former Dade City city manager who now works for Central Carting Disposal. The company serves about 17,000 Pasco homes. For the resident, who gets 11 pickups a month, that amounts to 17 cents more per pickup, he said.
Commissioners Ted Schrader and Michael Cox supported some increase for the haulers, saying the commission had approved the formula to prevent large rate jumps in the future. But Chairman Jack Mariano sided with the staff, saying "I'm not comfortable with this."
In the end, commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the partial increase, with Mariano dissenting.
But all agreed that the formula needed to be re-examined to evaluate fuel prices more than once a year and possibly carve up the county into franchise districts. Now there are no rules, so one neighborhood can have several haulers.
In other business
Denton Oaks suit: Commissioners settled a lawsuit with Tampa developer Metro Development Group for $79,116. The company sued the county in 2006 after commissioners rejected its request to rezone 40 acres off Denton Avenue.
The case was unusual because the decision went against recommended approvals from county staff, Pasco's development review committee and the Planning Commission.
Metro had plans to build Denton Oaks, a 78-home proposal, at Denton and Matis Road. The developer bought the property in 2005 for $1.17-million.
Metro cut the number of rooftops from 113, after Mariano and neighbors raised concerns that the development would disrupt a part of the county still dominated by pasture and open space. County records show Metro and Metro's representatives met at least three times with Mariano to try to iron out their differences.
In the lawsuit, Metro's attorney Joel Tew contended Pasco's Future Land Use Map, which guides development potential in a 20-year time frame, indicated the property would be designated for three homes per acre.
The area surrounding Denton Oaks is today largely agricultural and rural residences. Its future land use is for fairly dense use, along the lines of what Metro had sought.
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4604.