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County's trash pickup should be franchised

Pasco Commissioners, who have indicated a preference for handling garbage disposal via a publicly financed incinerator expansion over a privately owned landfill proposal, should adopt that same attitude toward curbside trash pick-up around the county.

Instead of government-endorsed franchise agreements, Pasco has a hodgepodge of nine haulers fighting it out for a share of the free market. It is problematic because consumers are bearing the costs of the inefficiencies.

This week, commissioners again agreed to allow the haulers to raise their rates despite a county staff recommendation to maintain the status quo. The result is a 6.4 percent increase to $12.44 in customers' monthly trash bills. The commission, at least, spared the public a larger increase indexed to diesel fuel costs, but the jump is the fourth rate hike in the past 2 ½ years.

That most surrounding counties have franchise agreement in place and lower rates for customers did not escape the attention of Commissioner Michael Cox who suggested revisiting the issue. Forget the visit. Consider a permanent move to franchising trash service.

It would end the cherry picking. (Surely, commissioners haven't forgotten the havoc and angry telephone calls two years ago that accompanied one company's decision to drop 17,000 customers.) And, if surrounding counties are any indication, franchising will reduce costs while providing more frequent service to the public.

Pasco haulers provide twice weekly garbage pickup and curbside recycling every other week. In Hillsborough, for less than $10 a month, or 20 percent cheaper than what Pasco haulers can now charge, residents receive twice weekly garbage pickup, and weekly collection of recyclable materials and yard waste.

It is simply illogical to have multiple trash trucks driving the same routes to serve only a portion of the people living there. It's inefficient, wastes energy and leads to unnecessary long-term wear and tear on residential streets.

While the county has had discussion with haulers about franchising recycling service, efforts to do likewise with trash pickup stalled amid protests from the private sector. Early this year, commissioners said the haulers should meet among themselves to divvy up the county's customer base. As expected, nothing concrete happened.

The inactivity also contributes to the county's dismal recycling participation. According to 2007 data, the county estimates less than 22,000 single-family households use the every-other-week blue-bag recycling. That amounts to just 17 percent of the residences that have curbside garbage pickup. Recycling coordinator Jennifer Seney projects a 2 percent increase for 2008.

Franchising recycling is logical for the haulers. Why wouldn't they want to cut the cost of driving an extra truck down every street just to grab a blue bag from less than one in five households? The county shouldn't let the opportunity slip away, but it also shouldn't let haulers limit participation just to glass and plastic.

If it makes sense to franchise blue bag collection, it makes just as much sense to establish franchise areas for trash hauling.

County's trash pickup should be franchised 12/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 8, 2008 11:44am]
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