Hernando commissioners sure turned green in a hurry, and the new eco-friendly attitude is a welcome change from a shortsighted recycling policy articulated in late April.
Just five weeks after Commissioners Jeff Stabins and Rose Rocco cast doubts on the continued viability of mandatory curbside recycling in Spring Hill, the board now is investigating revamping its trash-hauling system that would feature weekly curbside recycling across the county.
It is a smart reversal in direction that, if implemented, could cut expenses for a majority of households while extending the life of the county landfill, which is completing a $9.5 million expansion this summer. It also recognizes a need to alter the defective, budget-driven decision to halve the weekly curbside recycling service in Spring Hill that sparked severe public criticism and a drop in participation.
More to the point, it is just common sense to try to expand recycling, rather than curb it, in the wake of a new statewide goal for counties to recycle 75 percent of their trash and other waste over the next decade.
Though plenty of details need to be worked out, including a nonbinding voter referendum in November, the plan calls for soliciting new franchise bids from private haulers that would use automated trucks to provide trash disposal, curbside recycling and yard waste pickup on a weekly basis. A tight time line calls for bids to be in hand by late July, with ballot language approved by Aug. 24, the election Nov. 2, a final commission decision in January 2011 and then implementation Oct. 1, 2011, to allow haulers time to acquire containers and trucks.
It's an aggressive proposal, but one worth pursuing. Commissioners shouldn't allow themselves to be distracted by peripheral issues raised by haulers — bid preference for local companies, for instance — or by the naysayers who question the need for the program or the cost to nonparticipants.
Clearly, the system in place is not working. Eighty percent of the 38,300 households in Spring Hill's curbside recycling program choose not to participate even though they're paying for it. Meanwhile, 20,000 additional homes in the county have trash collection service, but not curbside recycling, and 18,000 households have neither — but subsidize the recycling service in Spring Hill.
Part of the overhaul includes a proposed two-tiered annual trash assessment, increasing the charge for households not using a private hauler. The change, perhaps up to $90 a year from the current $63.95, is intended to more accurately reflect the expense of operating convenience centers where people can dispose of their household garbage.
Those residents may object to an increased bill even though the current assessment is cheaper now than it was in 1996. Regardless, the proposal, as presented to commissioners Tuesday, is a sensible way to improve and to make more uniform the convoluted garbage and recycling service available today. Commissioners were wise to embrace it.