CLEARWATER — The future of curbside recycling in unincorporated Pinellas County isn't looking so bright.
The County Commission was slated to vote next Tuesday on whether to endorse a recycling and trash hauling program proposed by County Administrator Bob LaSala.
But the board unexpectedly set aside the proposal Tuesday. Instead, commissioners will step back and decide whether to pursue any kind of recycling or trash pickup service.
"We aren't on the same page," said commission Chairwoman Susan Latvala.
The commission could kill or drastically change the recycling proposal, which already has suffered from years of delay.
Demand for the county to run recycling pickup softened after St. Petersburg — previously the biggest Florida city without a curbside program — started the service last year. The unincorporated area is the last part of Pinellas without a curbside recycling program, though private haulers offer it.
Originally slated to begin two years ago, the county program stalled after commissioners recoiled over costs and the effects on businesses and neighborhoods. The board has changed, too.
Since the board first backed a recycling program in 2008, Commissioners Nancy Bostock, Neil Brickfield and Norm Roche have joined. Bostock particularly has questioned the county's rationale.
"Wow — looking at something strategically before we jump in with up or down votes on programs. I think that's a fabulous idea," Bostock said.
The latest proposal combines recycling and trash pickup and would cost about $10 million a year to operate. Residents would pay $15 to $20 a month.
Some have opposed the proposal because it could force residents to change haulers and cost some companies business.
"Recycling is now an important issue, but it's almost secondary," said Commissioner Ken Welch, the board's loudest supporter for recycling. "The issue now, and it's really slowed us down, is what is our policy on whether we're going to have franchised or licensed garbage collection in the unincorporated area."
LaSala and county solid waste officials recently briefed commissioners one on one, recommending the combined services start in 2013. The county even polled residents in unincorporated areas. County officials say a combined program could save residents money and be more efficient.
But LaSala and solid waste director Bob Hauser acknowledged there was no consensus. He told the board he'll let the commissioners decide what direction they should take next week.
David DeCamp can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8779.