BROOKSVILLE — After a chaotic first week of new garbage collection service, the Florida president of the new provider stood before the County Commission on Tuesday to apologize and promise that things will get better.
The delayed notices to customers which started the flood of complaints, "that's on us,'' said Republic Services area president Mark Clatt, "that's our bad.''
Clatt then explained the series of actions that the company has taken to try to ensure that every property would get its trash collected. These included doubling the number of staffers answering phones, multiple sweeps through neighborhoods even on non-scheduled days, new letters sent out to some customers and even a new website, www.hernando garbage.com.
Republic Services, doing business as Seaside Sanitation, took over the garbage service for the entire county on Jan. 1. But by the time the first day of service on Jan. 2 rolled around, hundreds if not thousands of garbage service customers had not yet received their pickup schedule.
Some customers missed garbage collection and some neighborhoods received no service on the assigned day or even in the days that followed.
The telephone lines to customer service were so jammed that, for days, many residents could not get through and inundated the county staff and county commissioners with calls seeking answers.
The situation grew worse when it was revealed that thousands of other residents received bills for the service even though they have never been customers and had no interest in being customers. That's because the prior garbage companies failed to share their customer lists so Republic Services simply sent out blanket billing to all residential properties in zones of the county.
"Thank you for your effort,'' Commission John Druzbick told Clatt. "I'm sure you know we've received an awful lot of phone calls.''
Druzbick said he also wanted to be sure that people who paid the bill when it came but don't want the service can get reimbursed.
Clatt said they would once they contacted Republic Services.
Commissioner Dave Russell said he thought it was significant that Republic's top person in Florida came to the commission meeting.
"We all know that there were a lot of things we could have done better,'' he said.
Russell also noted that, "our staff has been put through hell for lack of a better word.''
He asked Clatt to one on one personally apologize to county employees who have scrambled to help customers who could not get through to Republic Services, sometimes enduring the wrath of irate customers.
Clatt said he would and asked for the names of those he needed to speak with.
"I think you are all on the right track now, but make no mistake, you have some make-up work to do,'' Russell said.
"We pledge to do better,'' Clatt said.
In other business:
• The County Commission agreed unanimously to reconsider a special exception use permit granted to Spring Hill resident Paul Hargis by the Planning and Zoning Commission last month allowing him to sell firearms from his home on Hague Court. Neighbors argued that the use would bring too much traffic and safety concerns. That public hearing is slated for Jan. 24.
• Commissioners approved the rezoning of a 37-acre property off Cortez Boulevard surrounding the road to Mary's Fish Camp. The applicant proposes to build 18 residential units on the environmentally sensitive property which surrounds the head springs of the Mud River. Neighbors voiced concern about the impact on the environment. Don Lacey representing owners Curtis H. Norman and Zeneda Partners Limited Partnership explained that more than a half dozen agencies and departments would be reviewing the plans as the development moves forward.
• The commission approved a rezoning from agriculture to commercial, resort residential and other uses on a 129-acre parcel north of Cortez Boulevard on either side of Mondon Hill Road. Among applicant Wayne Wetzel's proposed uses are a primitive camping area, areas for recreational vehicles and park models, various commercial uses and mini-storage units.
• Commissioners agreed to allow staff to poll each of them individually to help determine their next step in negotiating with the employees represented by Teamsters Local 79. Employees overwhelmingly defeated their proposed contract. The union's bargaining team has said that furloughs, lost holidays and lowered health insurance benefits were not acceptable. They have also asked the county to pay the increase in this year's insurance premium over last year's.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.