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County seeks ways to cut costs in garbage pick up and recycling

BROOKSVILLE — Some Spring Hill residents could see higher garbage-collection bills and fewer recycling pickups as the Hernando County utilities department continues to look for ways to stretch its dollars.

In a workshop this week, county utilities director Joe Stapf outlined for county commissioners what has been accomplished and what still must be done to continue cutting costs while completing the much-needed landfill expansion.

Stapf recommended that the county eliminate its subsidy for providing curbside recycling in Spring Hill. This year, the county has budgeted $617,000 for that subsidy.

Stapf also said he has talked to Waste Management, the company that provides trash pickup in Spring Hill, about dropping from one recycling pickup every week to one pickup every two weeks.

That would save $456,000 on the subsidy, but the county would still have to kick in $161,000. Instead of having the entire county pay for that cost, he suggested that the nominal 3.5 percent rate hike to the affected Spring Hill customers would cover the cost.

The quarterly bill for garbage collection in Spring Hill is $30.69. Stapf's proposal would raise that by $1.05.

Utilities also has requested outside proposals from companies interested in taking over the county's recycling program by a Nov. 20 deadline. Four of the five companies that attended a recent prefiling meeting expressed interest in taking over the entire Recycling Material Processing Center operation. One was interested in hauling recycled materials elsewhere, Stapf told commissioners.

Excavation work and the transport of daily cover material for the landfill already has been privatized.

Another cost savings has been to scale back hours at the county's convenience centers, and the same idea is under consideration for the county's landfill, which now operates 10 hours a day, six days a week.

That schedule is required in the county's agreement with its waste haulers.

Stapf said he has discussed cutting that down to six eight-hour days in exchange for extending the trash hauling contracts with the existing firms for another year. Those contracts are set to expire in October 2010.

With the focus on getting the landfill cell open and operating, Stapf said he would be "hard pressed'' to get new contract agreements put together by that time and that the extension was something the commission should strongly consider.

The contract to open a new cell at the county landfill was awarded in August and much of excavation work is completed with a million cubic yards of dirt already moved. Stapf showed commissioners an aerial photo showing the cell construction and material excavated into piles for various purposes as construction continues.

The county has been racing the clock to get the cell open as the current cell is rapidly being filled. One help has been that the County Commission agreed to allow commercial waste haulers to dispose of trash outside of the county, a move that is diverting roughly 100 tons of garbage per day, Stapf reported.

Southeastern Environmental, which won the contract to construct the expansion, has estimated completion of the cell by April 2010. The county will then need a state permit to begin using the new cell.

Stapf said the utilities department's cost-cutting actions so far have resulted in the elimination of 13 people and the return of three leased pieces of heavy equipment.

In other business:

• Commissioners approved their first contract with the Teamsters Union, which county employees had overwhelmingly ratified late last month.

Human resources director Cheryl Marsden gave commissioners some of the highlights of the document from the county's point of view. She said the county maintained strong management rights and was willing to set the 40-hour work week in exchange for the union agreeing to the same 10 unpaid furlough days as other county employees.

• The commission accepted the recommendation of Fire Chief Mike Nickerson to cut costs by hiring six new fire and emergency medical personnel to fill in for workers who are on leave or vacation.

By hiring new employees at lower salaries, the county will save overtime costs at time and a half. In addition, the firefighters union and county both agreed that, when these new workers are not filling in, they will allow more shifts with three people on a fire engine instead two, a significant safety improvement.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

garbage collection and recycling

Some cost-cutting proposals

• Eliminating the county's subsidy for providing curbside recycling in Spring Hill. This year, the county has budgeted $617,000 for that subsidy.

• Dropping from one recycling pickup every week to one pickup every two weeks.

• Raising the quarterly bill for garbage collection in Spring Hill by $1.05.

• Scaling back hours at the county's convenience centers, and the same idea is under consideration for the county's landfill.

County seeks ways to cut costs in garbage pick up and recycling 11/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 8:27pm]
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