A renewed push to improve Pasco County's trash-collection service shouldn't be waylaid by commission ambivalence. That was the case two years ago when equivocation killed plans to franchise private-sector trash collection. A repeat would be a step backward from the commission's strong environmental initiatives that range from acquiring sensitive land to protecting groundwater supplies and encouraging green-building techniques. Franchising trash service will accompany plans to bolster residential recycling. That is imperative. It makes no sense to allow a historically underperforming curbside recycling program to be the linchpin of Pasco's sustainability efforts.
Two weeks ago, Pasco recycling coordinator Jennifer Seney briefed commissioners on plans to again seek permission to franchise trash collection. There will be a need to devise workable maps for franchise areas and to seek private-sector bids to provide the service, but the system is expected to change when the current contract to process recycling materials expires in September 2011. Besides that contractual deadline, Seney said the timing is better now than in 2008 because franchise areas can go hand in hand with the commission's desire to divide the county into marketing and urban service areas to guide growth toward urban settings.
Currently, the county sets maximum prices and minimum service level for haulers, but the nine private companies are free to serve any neighborhood they wish unless a homeowners association or community development district contracts with a single provider.
The result of the limited regulation is multiple trucks driving the same days down the same streets to serve only a portion of the residents. It's wasteful and causes unnecessary wear on residential streets, the repaving costs of which are borne by property owners.
The inherent inefficiencies of that hodgepodge is costly to the customer. Most surrounding counties have franchise agreements that feature lower prices to residents even with more pickup days. That alone should trigger substantive discussions of franchising trash collection.
Likewise, franchising trash service will boost recycling because it should bring a switch to a bin system over the current curbside blue bags. Improved residential recycling should result as attested to by the response in Dade City where the amount of materials recycled is up substantially since the city switched to bins last July.
Commissioners flummoxed franchising trash and recycling collections two years ago amid arguments from haulers that small companies would be pushed from the market and that the private sector, not government, should divide up the county. Such thinking rewards the existing inefficiencies.
Amid the extended drop of real estate values and government revenue, the commission is looking long and hard at how it delivers services to the public. Commissioners would be remiss not to give private trash businesses that same level of scrutiny.