BROOKSVILLE — Has the time come to end curbside recycling in Spring Hill? County Commissioner Jeff Stabins thinks so.
Recently, the county changed its curbside recycling schedule in the Spring Hill area from once a week to once every other week to save money. That move brought a flood of complaints from irate citizens to county officials.
During Tuesday's Hernando County Commission meeting, Stabins pulled an item updating commissioners on the county's recycling program from the agenda for discussion.
He suggested that the commission schedule a public hearing to consider ending the recycling program, which started as a pilot eight years ago. The commission will discuss it further in a May 4 workshop.
Stabins said that when the program was introduced, many people in the mandatory collection and recycling area of Spring Hill felt like the program was forced on them.
Even now, only about 20 percent of the 38,300 residents in the area appear to recycle, according to Joe Stapf, county utilities director. Yet everyone in the area pays a fee of about $14 a year for the program, and countywide about $8 of everyone's annual $63 solid waste assessment goes toward curbside recycling, Stapf said.
Waste Management, the garbage hauler that picks up the recyclables, is paid nearly $1.16 million a year, with the county paying $617,760 and customers $538,200.
Stabins noted that with 80 percent of the people in the mandatory area not using the recycling and with the remaining 20 percent being upset by the change in frequency, virtually everyone was offended.
"I just feel like curbside recycling in Spring Hill is an expensive and selective program that has outlived its usefulness,'' he said.
Commissioner Rose Rocco also voiced support for taking a hard look at the program. When it was adopted, she said, people were told that county recycling programs were mandatory. There was also discussion at the time that the change would hurt homeowners groups, churches and other organizations that made money from recycling bins.
"It was rammed down everybody's throat,'' Rocco said, noting that many of the residents in the three Spring Hill ZIP codes that are included felt it wasn't fair.
Stapf said he did not believe that there was any state rule telling counties that they must recycle a certain percentage of their solid waste. But County Attorney Garth Coller said there was some legislation that could be read in a way that would make recycling seem mandatory.
Stabins said he still supported recycling, but would like to see the focus on a voluntary program using bins placed in public locations around the county. He said curbside recycling brings in about 266 tons of material each month, compared to 260 tons per month from public bins now in use around the county.
He said he still plans to float the idea of mandatory trash pickup countywide and once every other week recycling. He also noted that, with a new private contractor now operating the county's recycling center, that company should promote more recycling in Hernando.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.