BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County commissioners have given the county's new garbage hauler permission to begin developing automated pickup routes.
In recent months, representatives of Republic Services have been talking up the benefits of automated service within compact communities around the county.
With the service, each customer is provided a rolling garbage bin in a choice of sizes. Once filled, the bin is left at the curb on scheduled pickup days. A truck specially equipped with a robotic arm lift then dumps each bin into the back of the truck without the driver having to get out.
When voters were asked two years ago about countywide mandatory automated garbage collection, they rejected the idea. But when the garbage franchise bid proposal was sent out last year, pilot programs for the system were allowed.
During Tuesday's County Commission meeting, commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said he still wanted to be sure that the county staff brings to the commission each area as it seeks the automated service. He said he didn't want any surprises.
Russell Wetherington, the county's chief procurement officer, assured the commissioners he would bring them information as different areas of the county stepped forward seeking the service.
Commissioner Jim Adkins said he wanted to know what would define an area. Commissioner Dave Russell said the focus has been on communities that have homeowners associations. The associations could approve the automated system, but residents who don't want the service wouldn't have to use it, Russell said.
Commissioners said they wanted to be sure that was true; Wetherington said it was. Those who are in a community or area that approves the service can either use it or put their regular trash cans or bags at the curb, he said.
Commissioner John Druzbick asked whether the county was changing the scope of its contract with Republic and why, if the automated service is more efficient, the savings wouldn't be passed back to customers.
Russell said he could see value in the automated service. He noted that Republic would give customers the rolling garbage bins and that they could choose a size.
He said he looked forward to seeing the reaction from areas that implement the service.
Dukes said he knows there are still some concerns about the automated program in some spots around the county.
"Change comes hard,'' Dukes said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.