Hillsborough County did a good job rolling out new garbage collection service last week. There still are some kinks, but the decision to put the contracts out to bid after years has been a win for county residents.
Collecting garbage from 265,000 residential customers spread over 900 square miles is no easy task. The fear of service disruptions and the fallout that can ensue was a major reason county commissioners did not rebid the contracts for 16 years. But the commission's decision two years ago to rebid the work has hardly produced the sort of chaos that opponents predicted. At the end of the first full cycle of trash pickup, 2,129 people reported a problem. More than 500 had not received at least one of their new garbage bins from the county. With more than a half-million scheduled pickups last week, the numbers amount to a blip of an error rate. For the vast majority, the trucks came as scheduled, the trash was hauled away and customer rates are now about $8 cheaper per home each year. The large, lidded bins are keeping trash off the street, improving the looks and health of the neighborhoods.
This experience is nothing like what happened the last time around, when complaints reached the thousands and trash in some areas went uncollected for weeks. The private haulers should respond to problems in a timely manner, and county officials should continue to ensure the transition in garbage pickup services becomes smoother by the day. But so far, the change has illustrated what the county can accomplish when it addresses unfounded fears and focuses on progress and problem-solving.