Automated garbage pickup making headway

Published June 23, 2012

BROOKSVILLE — The County Commission is poised Tuesday to make a change in its contract with Republic Services that would allow several Hernando communities to begin receiving automated garbage pickup.

The move is coming even though voters overwhelmingly opposed mandatory automation in a 2010 referendum.

More than half a dozen neighborhoods have already agreed they want the service with several more in discussions with representatives from Republic Services, which became Hernando's countywide garbage collection company in January.

"It's strictly voluntary through these communities,'' said Diane Rowden, who has been making presentations about automated garbage collection in subdivisions throughout Hernando County the past several months. "We came, we made a presentation and, if they wanted to get on board, it was their choice.''

Communities signing up for the new collection method include Avalon, Trillium, Wellington, Seven Hills, Brookridge, Hernando Oaks and Heather Walk.

Republic Services officials have said since they were chosen to be the county's hauler that they wanted their services to evolve over time to include automated service and, at some point in the future, single-stream recycling.

In the previous referendum, not a single voting precinct favored the idea, killing the idea of beginning a small pilot area that could be a model to persuade other neighborhoods to try the system.

County officials at the time said they would only resurrect automated service if communities said they wanted it.

Allowing communities that ask for it to try the automated service "isn't even close'' to what was proposed to voters in 2010, said Scott Harper, solid waste services manager for the county.

"They're just getting the ability to try it,'' he said. "It's a step. It's a baby step and we'll see how it works.''

Under the automated system, Republic Services would provide the customers with a rolling garbage can with a lid. The company's trucks would be outfitted with a robotic arm that would lift and dump those bins into the truck.

Rowden said that when she made presentations to the various communities, there were often concerns about the size of the garbage bins and whether some people could manage them.

The blue garbage cans come in a variety of sizes — 35, 64 and 96 gallons. Some of the communities that have signed up for the service opted for the smaller cans since garbage is still picked up twice a week, Rowden said.

The sturdy, lidded cans are a plus to neighborhoods because animals cannot get into the garbage and the trash won't blow around the neighborhood, she added.

The cans to serve the neighborhoods already in favor of the automated collection will be delivered soon after the commission approves the change in the contract, Rowden said.

Talks with other communities about the service will likely continue in the fall after seasonal residents have returned, she said.

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Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.