INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — City officials are negotiating to buy surplus county property on the mainland as a new home for the city's garbage collection operation, despite tight finances.
Solid waste facilities are now on an acre of waterfront property at 201 Second St. in the Narrows area on the south side of the city.
Moving the solid waste operation would allow the waterfront site to be redeveloped for park and recreational uses.
The operation includes vehicle and equipment storage, and offices.
The city uses two rear loader trucks and one claw truck to collect residential and commercial garbage. Household garbage is collected at curbs, back yards or side yards.
Commercial garbage is collected from Dumpsters.
Yard waste is collected and recycled separate from household waste. The city also operates collection centers for recyclables.
In 2002, the city considered selling the Intracoastal waterfront site and moving garbage services to Pinellas Park, but voters rejected the sale in a referendum. A city charter change the next year required voter approval to sell or lease city-owned property.
Now the commission has directed Interim City Manager Danny Taylor and Public Works Director Dean Scharmen to negotiate a lower price with the county.
The property in Largo is just east of Hamlin Boulevard and south of Walsingham Road and is appraised at $225,000, Taylor said.
Pinellas County recently approached the city to see whether it would be interested in buying the commercial/industrial site. Scharmen said the property is zoned for a solid waste collection facility.
"That price seems way out of line," City Commissioner Bert Valery told Taylor at a recent meeting. "I really want this property desperately. I would like to see if they would drop that down considerably."
Other commissioners were skeptical, however, that the city would be able to afford the property, regardless of the price.
"Even though it is a great piece of property, this is premature based on the financial condition we are in as a city," said Commissioner Daniel Torres, who suggested that the city ask the county about a barter involving the city's sewer system.
"The timing is really bad right now," said Commissioner Cookie Kennedy.
The city faces a million-dollar shortfall for its 2008-2009 city budget, largely because of rising losses in solid waste and sewer operations.
The commission is considering increasing utility rates. But it also faces reduced property tax revenues, further limiting its ability to maintain services.
Mayor R.B. Johnson said acquiring the property is a great idea, but the city has no money in its capital improvement program budget to pay for it.
"Sometimes we have to grab opportunity when it becomes available," Johnson said, suggesting that some items in the CIP program could be moved around to accommodate the land purchase.
Residents are mixed on the land purchase.
"People are not going to want garbage trucks down there," said resident Don House, referring to anticipated business development in the downtown and Narrows area. He proposed that the city seek somebody to buy the property and give it to the city.
Former Commissioner Jose Coppen and former Mayor Jim Driscoll oppose the land purchase, calling it an unnecessary expense in a time of decreasing revenue.
The purchase would require a referendum.