Upset over the company's decision to cut its service area, the County Commission has frozen Waste Management's permit to haul garbage in Pasco County next year.
Starting Jan. 1, Waste Management plans to pick up from southwest Pasco homes only. Company officials said the hauler will continue service for about 17,000 dropped customers - if they ask for it - until they find a new hauler.
But commissioners reacted angrily Tuesday because they said Waste Management did not give enough notice of the change. The company sent letters to customers last week.
Rick Kania, Waste Management's regional director, said the company followed Pasco's requirements, though he said there was a "communication breakdown." Pasco officials were informed of the decision before the Nov. 1 deadline to apply for next year's permit, Kania said.
County Administrator John Gallagher acknowledged mistakes by staff members who should have acted quicker because of the large number of affected residents. Past changes affected fewer customers, perhaps 400 to 500 people, he said.
Waste Management's pared-down service area - the higher density area south of State Road 52 and west of the Suncoast Parkway - triggered sour remarks by three of the five commissioners, too. Commissioner Michael Cox, whose district still would be served, compared the company's choice to the business practices of other popular Pasco villains, "cherry-picking" home insurers.
"You're just going to abandon these people, and I quite frankly think that's wrong," Cox said.
Commissioner Pat Mulieri, whose central Pasco district would be hit by the change, said the change left residents worried about having multiple haulers for one neighborhood. She, like east Pasco Commissioner Ted Schrader, wanted a delay on the dropped service and no requirement for residents to call to keep it.
"That's a no-no, because have you ever called yourself?" she asked Kania. "You never get through."
Kania said Waste Management, which currently has 32,000 customers, would work with the county. But Kania stopped short of promising to keep customers after Jan. 1 with no requirement they call.
The commissioners will revisit the hauler's permit renewal at their Dec. 19 meeting, after Gallagher meets with officials from Waste Management and the other 11 haulers in the county to try to work out a transition process.
Kania said the delay should not cause problems for Waste Management, but declined to say what the Houston company's next step will be.
Companies must have hauling permits in Pasco, and rates are set by county code. But the companies do not have exclusive service areas. David DeCamp covers can be reached at (727) 869-6232 or email@example.com.
In other commission news
Easing Northeast Pasco standards: Commissioners approved a settlement with northeast Pasco property owners that makes tougher standards optional for rural developments. The owners challenged the county's new comprehensive plan, which sets new standards for development. The deal allows the plan, now four years in the works, to be enacted