CLEARWATER — Despite opposition from a crowd of 50 residents and garbage haulers, the Pinellas County Commission has taken the first step toward mandatory trash pickup in the county.
Under the plan, the county would contract with haulers to pick up garbage in neighborhoods in unincorporated Pinellas starting in January 2013. The commission's 4-3 vote Tuesday triggered the beginning of a state-mandated three-year waiting period before the county can replace private haulers already operating.
It would cost homeowners $15 to $20 a month, the county estimates. The potential increase and loss of control over pickup prompted an outcry among smaller haulers and residents.
"We want to make our own decisions on which company to hire based on the quality of service and the cost," said Betty Bootier, a resident of unincorporated Seminole.
Commissioners Nancy Bostock, Calvin Harris, Karen Seel and Ken Welch voted for the service. Neil Brickfield, Susan Latvala and John Morroni voted against it in an unusually tight vote.
Morroni and Latvala said there wasn't a compelling reason to add another layer of bureaucracy. Harris said it would be good for the community, adding a standard level of quality for services.
The service is far from a done deal.
The commission still has to pass an ordinance allowing the change and approving bids in the next few years.
Bostock said it was important to start the process, but her support wasn't ironclad if costs and services don't pan out the way county staffers explained them.
"I'll be the first one to say, if we can't do it, to turn this thing around," Bostock said.