Article Courtesy of The
Tampa Bay Times
By Barbara Behrendt
Published May 25, 2018
BROOKSVILLE — County commissioners knew what they were in for.
Inundated with emails and phone calls before Tuesday’s meeting, and facing an
unhappy crowd of customers from the county’s garbage hauler Republic Services,
county officials tried to get ahead of some of the most important issues.
Yes, they told customers, they had
already raised garbage rates beginning Jan. 1, 2019, but
they had not explained it well in a letter sent out several
Yes, the people of Spring Hill voted in 1992 to have
mandatory garbage service, and it is still in place.
And yes, Republic Services has had performance problems
lately, but they paid a fine and have been working toward
more reliable service.
Scott Harper, who manages the county’s solid waste program,
explained that Tuesday’s meeting was merely to formalize one
aspect of what commissioners approved last year. Instead of
billing Spring Hill customers in the mandatory zone on their
monthly utility bills, the annual cost will appear on their
property tax bills.
Residents in the mandatory zone will see costs go from $8.18
per month to $13.27. After an additional fee for tacking the
cost to their property tax bills, those residents will pay
$172.80 a year.
In other parts of the county, fees run $9.21 to $10.47 per
month. They will increase to $13.49.
Hernando County recycle bins await the arrival of the
Republic Services recycle truck in Spring Hill.
Commissioners voted unanimously to make the billing changes because they
accepted the new contract last year based on that premise. They said that if
residents in the mandatory zone don’t want that anymore, they could seek a
new community vote.
And a new vote could bring new negotiations with Republic Services,
officials said, and could prompt commissioners to change the contract.
One by one, customers filed up to the microphone to say they were unhappy.
They disliked the county’s decision to extend Republic’s service for seven
years. Some also worried about the automated garbage pickup system which
starts in January. Trucks will lift up standardized trash cans and
mechanically dump them into the truck before setting them back down again.
Commissioner John Allocco said he heard concerns from Timber Pines residents
about the size of the trash cans Republic will supply for automated service.
The 96-gallon bins were too big, some complained. Individual communities can
work that out on their own, he said.
Commission Chairman Steve Champion discounted those concerns, saying his
6-year-old maneuvered them without any problem.
Seth Weightman, municipal services manager for Republic’s Tampa/Sarasota
business unit, said the company is ordering cans and wants to work with
community groups if they have a size preference. He is contacting homeowner
Weightman assured customers the company is trying to resolve service
problems, many related to its inability to find enough quality workers to
staff the trucks. Champion and citizens argued that, as a private business,
that’s Republic’s problem, not the county’s or the community’s.
Owners of multiple homes complained that they will have to pay the bills of
tenants who generate garbage. Others questioned the fairness of an annual
fee on homeowners who are here part-time. Several questioned why residents
weren’t receiving refunds from the fines levied against the company or the
savings it would realize by having the county handle its billing.
Another question was why the county chose last year to not seek competitive
bids for the service.
Jim Wunderle, the county’s purchasing and contracts manager, said the county
had looked at fees in other places and explored the options.
At one point in Tuesday’s meeting, audience members were shouting out
comments, and Champion called in deputies to keep the meeting orderly.
Champion said he welcomed seeing citizens come forward to overturn the
Spring Hill residents voted for the mandatory zone because the cost was
cheaper, said Commissioner Wayne Dukes.
The high-density, guaranteed customer base in that zone allows Republic to
offer lower rates, Weightman said. Republic has 43,000 customers in the
zone, he said, and approximately 19,000 customers in other parts of the
county who choose to use Republic Services.