St. Petersburg edges closer to universal curbside recycling

Published Sep. 26, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — Curbside recycling moved closer to reality Thursday as City Council members advanced a proposal to buy new trucks and containers using a $6 million loan.

The money would buy seven trucks and 80,000 recycling containers, but the details of when the program will start and how much it will cost remained unanswered.

Some council members said they were uneasy about approving the loan before hearing the details of the program — still being finalized.

But City Administrator Gary Cornwell promised to deliver at least an outline of how the city plans to provide the service at next Thursday's council meeting.

Meanwhile, the city needs to move quickly to lock down a bargain bank loan, said Anne Fritz, city finance director. Hancock Bank's $6,075,000 loan at 1.44 percent interest over eight years was a great deal for the city, she said.

In the end, the City Council's Budget, Finance and Taxation Committee unanimously approved going ahead with the loan — the latest twist in a delayed campaign promise of Mayor Rick Kriseman.

In February, the administration rolled out a plan to get recycling bins to all of the city's 76,000 households, removing the dubious honor of being the last large city in Florida not to offer universal curbside recycling.

A few months later, the mayor shifted from his position of outsourcing the collection of recycling bins when sanitation workers said they could do the job more cheaply than an outside contractor.

Then in July, no companies responded to a city request for a contractor to sort and process the recyclables. The city is still negotiating to hire a contractor, Cornwell said.

Still unclear is how much residents will be charged for the service. That is still being finalized too, Cornwell said. Earlier in the year, Kriseman proposed $3 a month for the service, but that was when an outside contractor would have handled the collection and processing.

Collection would be every other week as the city assesses the demand for the service, Cornwell said.

Council member Karl Nurse asked why the city needs to borrow money when it has plenty of cash in reserves. Fritz said the interest rate on the loan was so low she was confident she could buy bonds that would earn more money for the city.

Other council members said they would advance the plan, but wanted more details before they formally approve the loan next week.

City officials should provide a timeline on when they plan to move to weekly pickups and reach certain tonnage amounts, said council member Darden Rice.

Contact Charlie Frago at or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago