Many years ago at the Chronicle I had a landfill story.
Not just any landfill story. It was a story about a liner at the landfill not working correctly. If memory serves me right, it was punctured and the landfill folks didn’t want anyone to hear about it.
So of course, we heard about it.
This was a long, long time ago. I doubt anyone working today for Citrus County government, with few exceptions, was around then.
I recall the story being a big deal and the county having to make it right. One day in the courthouse I ran into the department director whose job included oversight of the landfill. He and I had been conversing quite a bit lately, much to his consternation.
“Why do you have so much interest in the landfill?” he asked me.
“People,” I answered, “are just interested in where their garbage goes.”
So let’s talk about that.
The county has a special meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday to decide whether to move forward with the mandatory garbage plan. I looked at the agenda and there’s a lot of numbers with three choices for commissioners that include some combination of residential garbage/recycling/yard waste pickup.
The plans range from $259 a year to $344. Unlike paying monthly or quarterly, like most people do now if they have private garbage hauling, this amount will go on your tax bill. The program would start Oct. 1, 2022.
This “universal” garbage collection/disposal idea has bounced around since the late 1980s, when voters passed a non-binding referendum for mandatory garbage, but no county commission since then has pulled the trigger. At least twice, before this time, commissioners seriously considered but eventually declined.
A few things to consider going into Tuesday.
– Commissioners more or less promised whatever they come up with won’t cost more than what you’re paying now. Plans on the table Tuesday start a low of $21.60 a month to a high of $28.60, when you break down the annual amount. You tell me how that stacks up to what you’re now paying.
– Because this is a bid process, all the attention Tuesday is on the bottom line. The recommendation is for the lowest bid, Waste Pro, which was the lowest of three companies by a mile. (Waste Pro is also the county’s recycling contractor.)
So how does customer service fit into this? Good question, JWC. I’m not sure. I don’t know whether Waste Pro’s customers love ‘em or hate ‘em, or somewhere in between, but shouldn’t that be a part of the decision?
– Waste Pro aside, some people just don’t want to give up their private hauler. That is certainly a valid point, and I look forward to what commissioners say about that. The cities have both done it, and quite successfully, but commissioners are prepared for an earful from those folks.
Semi-related, I usually review one commissioner’s email each week, mixing them up. I picked this up a few weeks ago reviewing Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach’s email:
Citizen: “I am 1000% OPPOSED to any one-size fits all trash service. I am satisfied with the family owned trash service I have now!!!”
Schlabach: “I agree with you 1000%.”
–By the way, haulers generally hate this idea. The law requires the county to start a three-year clock, which it did in early2019, warning haulers their Citrus County business may be ending unless they get the county contract (or contracts if it turned out that way). That means come October 2022, when this would take effect, all haulers but the chosen one(s) are out of luck.
The potential of giving pink slips to local residents put a shiver up the spine of commissioners the last time the garbage discussion got this far. Situation is much different in that none of the three bidders are local companies, though it makes me wonder about the fate of whatever local haulers out there that did not bid, such as Beverly Hills Waste Management, which is associated with Rolling Oaks Utilities.
– A huge issue in the past were the thousands of people who don’t have a hauler and take their own garbage to the landfill. It’s super convenient and relatively inexpensive, especially those on a tight budget.
Problem is, from a business standpoint, it’s a money killer for the landfill. Taxes don’t pay for the landfill. Tipping fees and the $27 annual disposal fee most people pay – that’s what operates the landfill. When 70% of your customers are responsible for 30% of your revenue – well, I’m sure you see the problem. The $27 annual fee is merged into the new fee.
– Finally, and here’s the wildest wild card, I’m not really sure how the public feels about this. In general, there’s a lot of tax anxiety out there for sure. A lot of folks were not thrilled with the county’s stormwater tax. How that connects to this, at all, who knows?
That said, there’s been general support for mandatory garbage in Citrus County for years. Most believe it’s a very good idea. As with most things, devil’s in the details and this board will want to have that stuff ironed out.
Tuesday isn’t the final say, it’s just the bid award. But we’re getting closer. Have an opinion? Now’s a good time to speak out.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.