Profit sharing snags Pinellas curbside recycling program

CLEARWATER — Pinellas County's plan to offer curbside recycling hit another snag Tuesday when commissioners demanded the deal be reworked because it was too generous to cities.

The county intends to pay for weekly curbside recycling pickup starting Jan. 1 in targeted areas, including St. Petersburg.

The plan called for cities to take a share of the profits from the sale of the recycled goods, but didn't ask them to share any of the bills.

"If we're going to pay the cost, and they have no risk, then why share the revenue?" commission Chairman Calvin Harris asked, noting the environmental benefit to the community. "They have the same goals, they ought to have the same motives — that should be enough."

The county estimates the service will cost $10 million to $12 million annually. The recyclables — paper, plastic containers, cans and bottles — could bring in up to $4 million.

While it's a money loser, recycling will help the county extend the life of its landfill, which has 60 years left. The state also has pushed a goal to recycle 75 percent of waste.

Pinellas recycles just more than a quarter of its waste, according to state environmental statistics.

Profit sharing wasn't added at any one city's request, rather it was an incentive for cities to participate, said Bob Hauser, Pinellas County's solid waste director. The county also offered to let cities that already have curbside recycling keep profits even after the county picks up the cost.

The only areas in Pinellas without curbside recycling now are St. Petersburg, Madeira Beach and unincorporated areas, where there are dropoff sites. The program ran into trouble in September when St. Petersburg initially rebuffed the county. But Mayor Rick Baker backed the idea after Pinellas offered to pay the cost.

The program will be funded with revenue from selling power created at the county's waste-to-energy plant and hauling fees.

Although property taxes wouldn't be used, Commissioner Nancy Bostock bristled at the profit-sharing plan, given the county faces an $85 million shortfall in next year's budget.

"Looking at such severe cuts in so many other areas, it's a little unnerving to sit here and look at a new, $10 million recurring program," Bostock said. "It's just a little counterintuitive to everything else we have on our plates right now."

Besides St. Petersburg, other cities interested in using the county's service are Dunedin, Indian Rocks Beach, Tarpon Springs and Treasure Island. They would account for 185,000 homes. About 80,000 homes that already receive curbside recycling from other cities also would fall under the program.

Besides reworking the profit-sharing measure, the county and cities still have to reach formal deals to provide the service later this year.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4156.

Profit sharing snags Pinellas curbside recycling program 03/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 1:37pm]

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