Hillsborough commissioners talk trash but take no action

TAMPA — After a 17-year commitment to the same three trash-collecting companies, Hillsborough County Commissioners have options to consider when contracts expire in 2013.

Competitive bids, by letting different companies apply. New industry developments, like trucks with automatic arms to dump bins. Cost-saving measures, like once-weekly garbage pickup instead of twice-weekly.

But at a Wednesday workshop to discuss one of the county's most basic services, county commissioners couldn't agree on much — not even the objective of the three-hour meeting or how to move forward.

"This is such a volatile issue," Commission Chairman Al Higginbotham said after the meeting. "I think the public had a higher expectation of the board, of this process."

The commissioners all clamored for lowering residents' costs while maintaining customer service. In the end they made a single decision, voting 4-3 to hold another workshop with public comment.

The county staff, working with solid-waste consultant Mitch Kessler, had recommended opening up contracts for competitive bidding or negotiating with qualified companies.

Three companies handle the county's garbage collection: Republic Services, Waste Management and Waste Services.

The contracts have been in place since 1996, the last time the county took bids for trash hauling services. Those contracts were extended, then in 2006 renegotiated for another seven-year term with a possible three-year renewal.

Higginbotham, along with commissioners Kevin Beckner and Mark Sharpe, supported allowing any interested companies to compete for contracts.

They expressed some concerns over a possibly bumpy transition to new collectors, citing customer complaints that arose after the 1996 bids. But Beckner said, "We owe it to our taxpayers and to our citizens to at least consider all the options that are out there."

Commissioners Victor Crist and Ken Hagan rebuffed them, favoring renegotiation with the three current companies for the best deal. They wanted to give those companies first consideration, they said, knowing the level of service they would provide.

Commissioners Les Miller and Sandy Murman were adamant against making any movement without public input.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

Hillsborough commissioners talk trash but take no action 10/12/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 13, 2011 1:37am]

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