SPRING HILL — The postcards that Hernando County sent out this week telling residents about changes in their curbside recycling program are good for just one thing: to be recycled.
All 34,000 of the postcards are wrong.
Today, the county will be sending out the correct information.
That's not a moment too soon for county solid waste services manager Scott Harper and his staff, who have fielded more than 1,000 phone calls from confused residents who wanted to know why their recycling day was being changed.
Here's what happened:
In order to save money, the county recently changed its contract with Waste Management, which provides the curbside recycling service in Spring Hill. Instead of providing pickup of recyclable materials every week, the service was switching to once every two weeks.
But when the company that handles the county's water and sewer billing, Advanced Xerographics Imaging Systems Inc., printed up the postcards, it didn't match the addresses on the front of the cards, which are used for delivery of the mail, with the addresses on the back of the cards, which are used to determine on which day the recycling materials will be picked up.
That meant that everyone getting a card was assigned a different day, and that's what started the phones ringing at the county landfill.
Harper said he alone took between 200 and 300 calls on Wednesday. Many callers were happy to hear that the postcards contained a mistake, but there were some, Harper said, who just wanted to fuss about the mix-up.
The county paid approximately $11,000 for the mailing but will not have to pay for the new batch of cards. Harper said the printing company was very apologetic and will pick up the cost of the second mailing.
" 'Sorry' doesn't answer the phones,'' Harper said. "But we'll work through it.''
Harper is also working through some of the initial transition issues since the private company SP Recycling Corp. took over operation of the county recycling center at the landfill on April 1.
SP Recycling hired just one of the county's nine workers, and two others were allowed to transfer into other positions with the county, the first time new contract language approved by the Teamsters Union has been used.
A company official said SP Recycling had received a significant number of resumes for the posted positions, and Harper said the county provided help with resumes and offered mock interviews to prepare the employees. Still, he said, he felt bad that some employees lost their jobs.
"With the labor pool out there right now, there are better-qualified people than even we had here,'' Harper said. "You can pick and choose, and you can get the best qualified person.''
There have also been questions raised about county crews still seen at some of the larger recycling centers in the county, but Harper said county workers still will clean up garbage left around recycling bins.
It's all part of the transition with SP Recycling, he said.
"We know we're going to go through a learning curve with them and them with us,'' he said. "It's not going to be smooth as butter.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.