ST. PETERSBURG — Since Pinellas County oversees solid waste services, City Council members recently wondered whether the county would help pay for the city's new universal curbside recycling service.
That isn't likely to happen.
"The economic climate has changed significantly," Pinellas Commissioner Ken Welch said Tuesday. "The millions of dollars are not in the budget."
"I'm not opposed to it, but I'd have to see more details," said Commissioner Charlie Justice. "We are in a tight budget year."
Some county recycling money — not enough to fund the universal program — has been flowing to the city since 2005. The county splits $500,000 annually among Pinellas cities, and St. Petersburg gets the biggest share, $191,000, based on its size.
St. Petersburg is allowed to use the money to pay for programs like public outreach, its dropoff recycling centers or to buy items such as park benches made from recycled materials, said Pinellas solid waste director Bob Hauser.
However, it's unclear how the city has been using that money. Mike Connors, the city's public works administrator, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Pinellas Commissioner Susan Latvala said she would not be inclined to give St. Petersburg any more money, noting that the county must keep reserves to repair and maintain its waste-to-energy processing plant.
After years of political debate, the City Council voted unanimously Feb. 19 to start the universal curbside program. At the meeting, council member Jim Kennedy questioned whether the county would contribute to start the universal service for 76,000 homeowners.
St. Petersburg missed its chance for the money in the boom years.
About 2007, Pinellas County offered to pay $10 million to start a countywide recycling program. But former Mayor Rick Baker preferred that residents use the dropoff centers. The offer was a standing one until County Administrator Bob LaSala recommended several years ago to withdraw it, Welch added Tuesday.
St. Petersburg will seek bids from private haulers to collect and process the recyclables. City staffers estimated that it would cost about $12 million for equipment for city sanitation crews to do the work.
Council member Karl Nurse, who wants the city to provide the service, isn't hopeful that the county would shift the money, adding: "To me, the logical thing would be to help us on a one-time capital cost."
Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter @markpuente.