A busy workshop and commission meeting from Tuesday produced many topics including how stimulus money to the county can be spent, the exploration of a private-public partnership with Rock Crusher and lastly the one we’ll focus on today which was a vote to take another step forward toward universal garbage collection.
Chairman of the Board of County Commission, and former client of the Concurrent’s parent company Winsler Consulting, Scott Carnahan echoed the refrain that we wrote would inevitably be used when talking about exploring the Rock Crusher purchase which was that entertainment is not the role of government.
We pointed out that this feels true in principle, but that in practice local government owns several entertainment venues in the form of public buildings and parks.
The same types of arguments are going to be made with universal garbage collection. This column will sort through what is true in principle versus what is reality in practice as this debate gains steam.
Let’s start with where the county stands after Tuesday. A 4-1 vote directed staff to create a bid process so the commission can see numbers assigned to proposals. Carnahan was the sole dissenting vote.
This dissension may come as a surprise to those with a long memory who recall that in late July 2017 a mysterious robocall reached residents with a message that Carnahan was spearheading the effort to start universal trash collection. According to that Chronicle story, the BOCC received more than 150 calls or emails in less than an hour and a half from concerned residents, most directed at Carnahan.
On Tuesday, Carnahan didn’t stand against the idea in principle but rather wanted staff to gather more information from neighboring counties before creating the bid.
This issue is one divided into three parts, each of varying weights in financial significance and overall importance. These three parts are mandatory hauler pick up, space at the county landfill and littering along our roadways.
The last of this list is the most discussed yet the least costly, but it will be an integral part of the bid that is worth noting as the bid winner will be responsible for overall beautification.
The second part that receives media attention whenever it is brought up is the idea of mandatory hauler pick up. This is what many people, based on letters to the editor, are talking about when they argue the issue of universal waste services.
In principle, it is true that mandatory garbage collection would eliminate your choice of whether to pay for collection or haul it to the landfill yourself.
It’s also true that it might limit your choices among companies providing this service although almost everyone on the BOCC expressed some soundbite about wanting multiple hauler options in the spirit of competition.
What is not true is that sharing the cost of waste management is a new concept in this county, nor is it potentially true that the mandatory fee assessed to hauling is going to be the most expensive outcome for the individual.
That brings us to the third part of the issue. There is only a finite amount of space in the county landfill and space is quickly becoming a concern at our current population, which will only be accelerated as the county grows in a manner that it almost certainly will.
Currently all Citrus homeowners pay a $25 fee on their taxes toward disposal costs. This will likely skyrocket when the issue is addressed properly. However, the same company that does the hauling can also be responsible for these space concerns.
Thus, it’s true in principle that universal garage collection is a bad idea if the debate is limited solely to trash hauling. However, there’s real potential in the whole package.
To Commissioner Jeff Kinnard’s credit, he has been open with the public about this issue at townhalls and meetings for several years.
If the county can write the bid in a way that shifts the burden of addressing the landfill space issue to the private company in exchange for offsetting that cost with the awarding of a universal garbage collection contract with strict level-of-service parameters, then it’s possible to lower costs for all, prepare for the future and beautify our roadways all at once.
The BOCC was correct in moving this forward but the margin of error is razor thin. Thankfully, we do have trust in Kinnard on this issue based on his past consistency reflected again in Tuesday’s meeting.