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County to study businesses' garbage

The numbers presented Tuesday were high enough to give county commissioners sticker shock.

To support the indebted Citrus County landfill, commissioners were told, many businesses would face estimated tax assessments of between $250 and $21,000 a year, depending on how much garbage they produce.

Susan Metcalfe, the county's solid waste management director, told the commissioners those figures were based on information the county collected about commercial trash customers from hauling firms in the county.

But, unsatisfied, commission Chairman Jim Fowler said he thinks the assessments should work out to be much lower and asked Metcalfe whether she could assure the board the numbers were accurate.

When Metcalfe replied that the numbers might not be right on target, Fowler said, "We need to be right about this before we send the bills."

Commissioner Gary Bartell agreed.

"I'm not satisfied with the way this whole process has come down," he said. "It's our job to have this information."

Neither Bartell nor other commissioners, though, faulted Metcalfe or other employees for not having gathered the information; they simply said the staff members should be given time to verify how much garbage businesses produce.

County Administrator Gary Kuhl said four or five employees working together might be able to complete a survey of businesses' trash bin sizes and frequency of disposal within weeks.

Commissioners asked him to report back on how he plans to proceed.

The commercial assessment under discussion by commissioners comes after their recent approval of a $27 residential assessment to help cover expenses and pay off a $4-million debt at the Lecanto landfill.

Commissioner Vicki Phillips said, though, that the figures presented Tuesday cast some doubt on whether the county had accurately estimated the average tonnage of commercial garbage.

"It's been made much more complicated than it had to be," she said. But, she said, "We'll get it right."