BROOKSVILLE — A unanimous County Commission on Tuesday approved a seven-year extension to the garbage-collection contract with Republic Services, an agreement that will bring higher prices, county-provided garbage cans and automated trucks to lift and mechanically dump cans.
Commissioners said they liked the idea of the automated system and the uniformity of trash cans to clean up neighborhoods and make it clearer to the trash collection crews which homes had the garbage service.
The county's current contract with Republic expires in December 2018. The new service will start when the current pact ends but officials have not yet worked out details of the timing.
The approval came after commissioners listened to complaints from several residents of the Ridge Manor area who have had ongoing problems with trash pick up. The company's municipal services manager, Seth Weightman, told commissioners that they had personnel issues on that route and the driver involved was no longer with the company.
But for residents, garbage piling up on their streets was just one problem. Lack of good customer service was another. Residents reported getting shuffled from one customer service person to another, having to explain their situation to call centers outside of Florida, and being told that the company didn't have to pick up their trash.
Lynn Gruber-White, president of the Ridge Manor Property Owners Association, said that the county fielded hundreds of calls per month complaining about Republic Services.
Commissioner Steve Champion, whose district includes Ridge Manor, said those numbers represent such a small percentage that they bolstered his thought that the company was doing a good job. "I applaud you for getting us into the 21st Century,'' he said.
Commissioner John Allocco said he was anxious for the company to beef up its customer service efforts and suggested it adopt a reverse-calling system so that when there is a problem with a route, the company can proactively warn customers about a service interruption. Weightman said Republic is looking into that idea.
The company already added customer service representatives to their office in Hudson to provide better responses to any problems, he said.
Under the approved plan, residents would continue to get two trash pick-ups per week, one recycling pick-up and one yard waste pick-up. Those living in the mandatory pick-up area of Spring Hill would have their bills transferred eventually from their utility bill to their property tax bill.
Carts for the automated system would be provided by and maintained by Republic Services. The price now set for non-mandatory areas, which currently ranges from $9.21 to $10.47 per month, would increase to $13.49. In the mandatory pickup area in Spring Hill, the cost would go from $8.18 per month to $13.27 - an increase of $61.08 per year.
Billing increases under the new contract would be tied to an industry-specific cost rating rather than the consumer price index which has been used in the past. Republic serves 59,000 customers in Hernando County.
Weightman said rural areas would be served by a different kind of truck manned by two people. One would retrieve cans and push them into a bracket that would dump them. Then the worker would place the can back where it was.
Republic also brought along examples of the 95-pound and 65-pound trash bins that will be available. Some customers took the opportunity to check them out by pushing them up and down the incline in the commission chambers during a break in the meeting.
Contact Barbara Behrendt at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.