BROOKSVILLE — Getting more and paying less is not something people often see with government services, but that could soon be the case with trash pickup in Hernando County.
County staffers on Tuesday are expected to recommend awarding the new garbage collection franchise countywide to Seaside Sanitation. In bids received earlier this year, Seaside offered a lower cost for all portions of the county except Brookridge and High Point, where residents would see a $1-a-month increase.
In addition, under the proposal the staff is recommending, customers would receive the same two garbage pickups per week they receive now, plus once-a-week pickup of recycling. Yard waste would be picked up every other week.
Existing mandatory pickup areas in Spring Hill would remain, but would not be extended to the rest of the county.
If the County Commission approves the recommendation, the contract with Seaside would run for seven years, with a renewal option of three years.
Residents of the city of Brooksville, which has its own trash, recycling and yard waste service, would not be affected.
Seaside is a subsidiary of Republic Services, the second-largest garbage company in the nation.
Currently, the county's garbage collection system divides Hernando County into five zones. Those zones are served by three different haulers, and Seaside has served the northwest quadrant of the county for 11 years.
Under the staff proposal, the zones would remain in place, but, since Seaside had the lowest bid in each zone, there would be just one provider countywide.
The bids pleased Joe Stapf, the county's environmental services director. Last November, voters had rejected an automated garbage collection system, but some of the reasons that system would have benefitted the county would also hold true if the Seaside bid is awarded.
Recycling is one primary advantage. Currently, in the mandatory garbage collection zone in Spring Hill, recyclables are picked up every other week. If residents in other areas of the county want to recycle, they must take items to one of several centralized recycling centers around the county.
The county pays its private recycling contractor to pull items from the centers. If all residents put out their paper, plastic and cans into bins to be picked up at home, the cost of those centers and the pulls from those centers could be reduced, according to a memo submitted by Scott Harper, the county's solid waste services manager.
Recycling in general would also likely increase, which means a better payback on recycling for the county and the long-term benefit of keeping recyclable materials out of the landfill, officials have noted.
The county has for years paid a subsidy to haulers for the recycling in Spring Hill, but that would end under the new franchise agreement. This year, that subsidy — paid from the annual solid waste assessment on residents' tax bills — totaled $145,080.
The yard waste pickup twice a month also is new. Because the county's landfill is so new, it cannot accept yard waste, so the waste must be kept separate. In a few years, when the county installs a special system to collect gas at the landfill, that would no longer be necessary.
When the county bid the garbage franchise, it asked for proposals on a variety of service options. Among them was a countywide garbage collection using an automated system. As officials expected, it was even less expensive than the Seaside bid for regular service.
But Stapf noted that people who overwhelmingly defeated the referendum question disliked several aspects of the automated system, including having to keep and maneuver big rolling bins. They also didn't want to lose the convenience centers, located in Spring Hill and Ridge Manor, where residents can drop off larger items and hazardous materials, and which some people use for trash drop-offs.
Stapf said that closing the centers could save the county $1 million, but he understands that residents appreciate knowing those centers are available when needed.
County Commissioner Jeff Stabins, who was a fan of the referendum proposal last year, said he was glad to see that the prices came in at such a favorable level. He was especially happy to see that more people will have a chance to participate in curbside recycling.
"I hope they will join progressive people throughout our country,'' Stabins said. "It's fun. It makes you feel like you're doing the right thing. You're saving the planet.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.