SPRING HILL — Even before Hernando County sends out its first combined water/sewer and garbage bills to Spring Hill residents early next month, officials are tweaking their plan because of customer complaints.
County commissioners and Utilities Department employees are getting an earful from part-time residents in the areas of Spring Hill that have mandatory garbage collection. More than 43,000 homes are in that zone.
In October, the County Commission approved a plan to put the cost of garbage collection on the water and sewer bills to make the billing process more efficient.
Switching to the new system was not supposed to cost the county or the customers anything extra because the county's residential garbage hauler, Republic Services, was going to absorb any of the implementation costs.
With the change, Republic would be out of the direct billing business, one aspect of its contract with the county that has caused problems since Republic took over countywide garbage service two years ago.
While the Utilities Department originally planned the system so that snowbirds could stop their garbage service at the same time they shut off their utilities when they prepare to go back north, they did not consider that some people don't turn off their water when they leave.
Some want their sprinklers to keep running. Others don't want to advertise that they have left for the summer and don't mind paying the small monthly bill. But under the system, the garbage bill could not separated from the water and sewer bill.
At this week's County Commission meeting, three commissioners acknowledged that they had gotten plenty of complaints from people who do not want to pay to have their garbage picked up when they are not here.
Commissioners asked staffers to fix the problem. Those changes could come before the board on Jan. 28.
The county will have to be able to validate that people who say they are leaving actually are leaving and do not need garbage pickups, said commission Chairman Wayne Dukes. That will ensure that people in the mandatory zone cannot opt out of garbage collection when they are actually living in Florida.
Approximately 4,800 homes in the mandatory zone do not currently pay for or receive garbage collection but will begin to be billed for it starting next month.