Tuesday, January 16, 2018
News Roundup

Trash switch leads to unexpected bills for some Hernando residents

Eva Knapp was surprised when she found a bill in her mail this week for garbage collection service by the county's new provider.

She hasn't had garbage service for years.

When she talked to fellow neighbors on Olivet Drive near Ridge Manor, she found they too had received bills from Republic Services (which does business as Seaside Sanitation).

While Knapp said she would probably pay the bill and take the service, her neighbors were adamant that they didn't want or need it. After all, they live directly behind the county's east-side garbage transfer station, where they can dump trash for only an annual fee that all county property owners pay.

Knapp's neighbors aren't the only ones upset by unexpected bills from Republic.

Thistlebrook Lane resident Mary Petrucci blasted off an email to county commissioners Wednesday morning, noting that her notice from the company "makes it seem as though garbage pickup is mandatory.''

Not a customer of any waste hauling company, she wrote, "invoicing people for services not ordered or rendered, I would assume is illegal.''

"Who approved Republic Services to charge the citizens of Hernando County for waste disposal?'' wrote another area resident, Patricia Kevitt. "I know I did not sign up for anything.''

Since Central Carting, the previous company serving all residents east of U.S. 41, refused to give Republic Services its customer list, the only option for Republic was to use the county property appraiser's list of property owners for billing information, whether they had previously gotten the service or not, county officials said Wednesday.

It was the latest of several problems that have occurred since Republic took over collections in all unincorporated areas of Hernando on Jan. 1.

Officials said residents who do not want the service outside of the mandatory collection zone in Spring Hill do not have to take it. But none of that was spelled out in belated notices people began to receive from Republic this week.

The county is advising people who get bills and do not live in the Spring Hill mandatory zone to notify Republic if they do not want the service. They can do so by calling the company's customer service number or returning the bill unpaid with a note that they do not want the service.

The latest development kept phone lines of commissioners and other county officials ringing off the hooks for another day Wednesday. Reportedly, phones also continued to ring at Republic Services. But since many who called their customer service lines couldn't get through, the volume of complaints was unclear.

Brenda Frazier, the county's community relations coordinator, said one resident reported having Republic Services on redial for two hours and could not get through.

Ron Pianta, the interim county administrator, was planning to speak with Republic Services officials Wednesday afternoon to try to force some resolution to the problem of frustrated customers who could not get through to someone on Republic's phone lines.

Some county residents had not had trash collection for several days because mailings by Republic announcing new schedules for pickups hadn't come by the time the new service started Monday.

While the company promised that all county residents would get trash pickups by the end of the day Wednesday and trucks started as early as 4 a.m. to make that happen, some residents were still waiting Wednesday afternoon to see the blue Republic trucks in their neighborhoods.

Their frustrations and anger were shared by county Commissioner Dave Russell, who said he has been answering calls for days.

"There has just been an explosion,'' he said. "It's a nuclear event.''

Russell said Republic officials have a lot to explain to commissioners, and company officials have been summoned to have that discussion at Tuesday's commission meeting.

"They are on the agenda. They've been compelled to be present so we can have this thing out,'' Russell said. "This is completely unacceptable.''

He said that the company, one of the largest trash-hauling outfits in the country, had "plenty of time to put everything together.'' Originally, Republic was to take over garbage collection countywide Oct. 1. But to give the company extra time, the county negotiated extensions with the other two former providers to extend their service through Dec. 31.

"I've heard all the questions, and we're going to get some answers on Tuesday,'' Russell said. "I hope they're prepared to defend their contract because their performance to date is in question.

"If this were my business," he said, "I wouldn't be in business."

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected].

Comments
Women speak out on abuse by Nassar; Nation’s first Sikh attorney general confirmed; more in U.S. news

Women speak out on abuse by Nassar; Nation’s first Sikh attorney general confirmed; more in U.S. news

Updated: 1 hour ago
In major shift, House bill would turn three USF universities into one

In major shift, House bill would turn three USF universities into one

Separate accreditation has long been a point of pride and a stamp of independence for the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee branches of the University of South Florida.Graduates of those schools frame diplomas bearing the name of their own universi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Video captures basketball game between kids, St. Petersburg officers

Video captures basketball game between kids, St. Petersburg officers

ST. PETERSBURG — Teamwork wins games, they say. And basketball can bridge gaps.That’s what makes the Facebook video of three St. Petersburg police officers playing a game of pickup in the street against three kids so compelling. The officers, who wer...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top Hillsborough teaching honor goes to a Lewis Elementary educator

Top Hillsborough teaching honor goes to a Lewis Elementary educator

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year is a self-described "busy, busy bee" who never tires of exploring new ways to help students learn, even if she has to be creative.At 56, Bonnie Bresnyan also is a mentor for the next generation of s...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Casino boat operator in fatal fire had maintenance, safety issues before earlier blaze

Casino boat operator in fatal fire had maintenance, safety issues before earlier blaze

PORT RICHEY — The casino boat operator whose shuttle caught fire Sunday, leaving one passenger dead, says it does not know what could have caused the blaze.But federal records show the company, now called Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz, had another boat...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze watch. Cold spell headed for Tampa Bay.

Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze watch. Cold spell headed for Tampa Bay.

Did everyone enjoy the cool, sunny weather? Because it’s over now.It’s about to get very chilly, Tampa Bay. A rush of arctic air is headed our way, bringing another cold spell. Daytime temperatures will be in the low 60s on Wednesday, but overnight t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Thanks Twitter: Fakesters pose as jackpot winner Shane Missler

Thanks Twitter: Fakesters pose as jackpot winner Shane Missler

Jackpot winner and Florida man Shane Missler wants to leave behind a legacy with his winnings.But he won’t be doing that by doling out cash to Twitter followers.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Florida man, 20, claims $450M Mega Millions jackpotAn account cunningl...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Hillsborough County firefighter gets the ax after investigators find ties to motorcycle gang

Hillsborough County firefighter gets the ax after investigators find ties to motorcycle gang

TAMPA — Hillsborough County officials fired a Fire Rescue medic Tuesday after an internal investigation concluded he had "unwavering loyalty" to the Outlaws Motorcycle Club — the state’s dominant biker gang.Clinton Neal Walker, 33, of Bradenton is th...
Updated: 2 hours ago

St. Pete officer suspended for month after pushing concert guard

ST. PETERSBURG — A police officer was suspended for a month after he pushed a security guard at a summer concert in Tampa, according to St. Petersburg police.It could have been worse: Chief Tony Holloway determined Officer Curtis Wright could have be...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bangladesh, Myanmar agree to Rohingya repatriation timeline; Madsen charged in journalist Wall’s death; more in world news

Bangladesh, Myanmar agree to Rohingya repatriation timeline; Madsen charged in journalist Wall’s death; more in world news

South AsiaNations plan Rohingya returnBangladesh and Myanmar have agreed that they will try to complete within two years the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled from violence in Myanmar, Bangladesh’s Foreign Min...
Updated: 3 hours ago