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South County residents easily pick their best trash collection option

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image The session was led by John Lyons, public utilities director (standing), who reviewed four collection options and explained uses of collection containers. Photo Melody Jameson

County officials came here Saturday seeking citizen input on new options for trash collection in South Hillsborough and some 60 area residents obliged.

By MELODY JAMESON

RUSKIN – County officials came here Saturday seeking citizen input on new options for trash collection in South Hillsborough and some 60 area residents obliged.

By a large majority, they asserted they want what they now have – at reduced cost.

With current contracts for trash collection throughout unincorporated Hillsborough expiring in September, 2013, public utilities administrators are considering a variety of different approaches to the complexities of refuse pick-up and disposal. On the residential collection side, they are forecasting savings to consumers in the 20 to 30 percent bracket.

They have cut the large unincorporated county area into five collection districts, issued requests for proposals covering several different scenarios and received responses from six large-scale trash haulers, including the three currently handling residential and commercial trash pick-up.

From these proposals, they distilled new data, combined it with known factors based on recent experience and presented four possible options for assembled South County residents during the community meeting Saturday. It was the second of such meetings scheduled around the county.

If the present contracts with the current haulers simply were to be extended, the projected 2014 collection contractor cost is $139.56, billed annually to residents and customarily arriving as part of the solid waste handling charges appearing on their property tax statements each fall, John Lyons, county public utilities director, told the group. This figure does not include charges for the other but closely allied aspect of solid waste management – disposal fees – which are yet to be considered.

That 2014 projection for residential collection could drop by $39.21 to $100.35 under the first of four options envisioned as part of the new approach to the service provided by any of the six interested haulers, Lyons said. Option 1 is based on continued manual handling of trash containers placed by home owners along roadways for pick up by passing trucks. It also continues the twice weekly garbage collection schedule, with once weekly pick up of recyclables and yard waste.

Keeping the same collection schedule under Option 2, but going to automated handling by the haulers’ trucks of the new trash containers that would be required is projected to bump up the annual collection cost to consumers from $100.35 to $111.65, thereby reducing the potential savings from $39.21 to $27.91, Lyons explained. The increased cost is the $16.80 for two specifically designed containers that the county would purchase in bulk and supply to its solid waste customers, he added.

Option 3 also is based on automated service at the truck using the necessary containers but reduces trash collection, along with recyclables and yard waste, to one time per week. The projected cost to consumers, including charge for required containers, is $104.21, Lyons said. This option produces an estimated collection savings in 2014 of $35.35.

The greatest projected savings in the new contract year - $41.79 – would be expected under Option 4 which calls for trash and yard waste pick up once each week, but reduces collection of recyclables to every other week at an annual cost to consumers of $97.77. This scenario also is based on automated handling of the special containers at the truck.

While one area resident spoke enthusiastically of the advantages found in automatic handling of trash containers, others found faults in the several options, suggesting that lower costs often equate to lower levels of service, that automation may mean loss of jobs at a time when employment levels are particularly important and that the larger containers needed for automated systems will represent more difficulty for the infirm in both the retiree and general populations.

By a show of hands, the 60 or so citizens taking part in a “straw vote” then overwhelmingly chose Option 1 which utilizes the current collection schedule without new containers or their automated pick up by especially-equipped trucks. According to administrators’ projections, this option would reduce the annual cost passed through to consumers by nearly $40 and put the annual collection portion of solid waste handling charges included on their property tax bills at slightly over $100 – only a few dollars difference compared with the automated, reduced service of Option 4.

Community meetings on the subject were continuing around the county this week, Lyons said, adding that information gleaned from the citizen sessions and particulars supplied by the six interested collection haulers would be provided to county commissioners in time for a workshop on the subject in early January, 2013, as the board considers collection options and addresses issues related to disposal of what is and is not collected.

It is anticipated that seven-year contracts can be hammered out in late January, the utilities director noted, leaving sufficient time before present contracts expire for administrators to order new trash containers, if required, and giving new haulers time to gear up with additional personnel and equipment as needed to meet their obligations.

Meanwhile, Lyons said administrators remain particularly interested in hearing from residents at this time concerning all aspects of the trash collection situation. A telephone survey of about 20,000 solid waste collection customers is planned to develop statistical data on the subject and residents are encouraged to weigh in, he added, by email at talktrash@HillsboroughCounty.org, , by text or verbal message at 813/704-0181, by joining the blog through www.hillsboroughcounty.org/talktrash, or by addressing the county’s Communications Department at 601 East Kennedy Blvd., 16th floor, Tampa, FL 33602.

“It’s the customers’ opinions,” Lyons concluded, “that count in my mind.”

Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson

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