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Pasco commissioners toss plan to reform trash hauling

DADE CITY — Commissioners are delaying again an initiative to carve the county into garbage franchise areas that would each be served by one hauler.

County recycling coordinator Jennifer Seney had planned to spend next year coming up with a franchising proposal, which she and others have long argued is the best way to increase recycling in the county.

Franchising would represent a sweeping change to Pasco's long-established open market setup, which lets nine permitted companies compete for customers anywhere in the county.

But commissioners Tuesday put the brakes on Seney's plans, dropping franchising from next year's proposed business plan, the document that puts forth new initiatives.

Chairwoman Pat Mulieri said the proposal simply had bad timing.

"Right now, we're in the middle of so many things," she said.

Haulers have a history of fighting franchising proposals, arguing that the current setup allows customer choice and helps smaller companies compete with the bigger ones.

Recycling advocates, however, say that franchising would boost participation. That's because county officials could write franchise agreements so that the haulers bidding on them would be required to offer curbside recycling pickup with bins versus the blue bags now used.

"You will never see an increase in your recycling until you change your system," Seney told commissioners Tuesday.

In fact, Seney says franchising would increase recycling so much that she pushed a companion initiative: Seek firms interested in building and operating a new facility that processes recyclables.

The existing facility can't be expanded because it is surrounded by the Shady Hills wastewater treatment plant.

More than 60 percent of the recyclables that come into the facility are from other counties, said Seney. She said that though the county used to lose money on the recycling facility, it is now earning about $5,000 a month.

Commissioners did agree to put out a request for proposals for such a facility to get a better sense of how such a venture might cost.

Seney told commissioners that going forward on the facility made sense only if they had decided to move ahead with franchising.

"It's just an exercise till we decide how we want to handle our garbage," she said.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Fast facts

Voting upcoming on blueprint for future

Commissioners will vote on their 2010-11 business plan June 22. The initiatives contained in the plan are aimed at achieving goals such as job creation and improved customer service.

Some of those initiatives include:

• Filling 15 of the 33 vacant positions that were cut from Pasco Fire Rescue last year. Officials say filling those positions would save about $288,000 the first year versus continuing to pay overtime. The hiring cost is about $815,000.

• Undertaking an economic development study to identify polluted "brownfields" in the county, including along the U.S. 19 corridor and in the Lacoochee-Trilby area. Officials said having a study in place makes it easier to qualify for federal cleanup money at the sites.

Pasco commissioners toss plan to reform trash hauling 06/01/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 9:04pm]
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