Just because you have the ability to do something doesn’t mean that you should. Leadership is as much about knowing when to not act as much as it is about the actions a leader takes. The County Commission should not vote on universal garbage collection in Tuesday’s special meeting.
Universal collection is too rushed with too many unanswered questions to responsibly pass it Tuesday. The Commission should know this. They had originally set up the 9 a.m. information session to learn more about the bids as a workshop meaning they would receive a presentation but would be unable to call a vote on the issue.
During the opening moments of the Oct. 12 meeting, County Administrator Randy Oliver asked that the Board approve changing the designation of the Nov. 30 meeting from a workshop to a special meeting where voting is allowed and the Board approved it without any discussion.
This moment was almost immediately forgotten because no one spoke in the public portion that followed, which never happens. Someone always says something. This oddity covered up any questions regarding the motivation of Administrator Oliver’s request.
The Board needs that time in a workshop prior to a special meeting to allow them to critically ask questions about information they receive which may require more staff time than what a single meeting allows for to find an answer. This is how the process works when the public interest is protected.
And there are questions that need to be asked. Here’s what has been made public so far.
There’s going to be an increase in disposal cost from a $27 MSBU that every homeowner pays to a $65 disposal fee. The cost of collection can then be determined with two variables considered.
The first is flat rate or by quadrant. The Commission received one price that everyone would pay as the same and one pay structure that splits the county into northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast quadrants with the southeast being the most expensive, presumably because of its lower population density.
The second variable is the type of collection. The bids look at three options. There’s the most service with weekly garbage, recycling and yard waste pick up. There’s an intermediate service with weekly garbage, every other week recycling and every other week yard waste pick up. Lastly, there’s a basic service that is just weekly garbage collection.
For example, a flat rate of intermediate service would cost each household $219.96 annually plus the $65 disposal fee. This is a substantial new financial burden on the thousands of residents who haul their own garbage to the landfill, but may be justified in the name of county beautification if that’s where the story ends.
It’s not quite that simple though. The bid at that price from Waste Pro was the lowest. By a lot. By an amount that makes you skeptical like when your food comes out at a restaurant suspiciously fast and you feel like something is wrong.
Waste Pro’s $219.96 was about $170 cheaper than the next lowest bid of $388.37 per household from Waste Management and was almost $200 cheaper than the $411.25 received from the third company Florida Environmental Express.
This disparity closes a little bit when only garbage is collected, the minimal service option, but Waste Pro is still the cheapest by $40.
There may be a good explanation for this but it would be reckless for the Commission to vote on awarding Waste Pro the contract before that reason is known.
The last project that was similar to this one in size that the Commission voted on was the animal shelter. The Concurrent’s argument back then was that the Commission was drawing self-imposed battle lines between pro-shelter and anti-progress Commissioners but that it was possible to be pro-shelter but require more information before a responsible vote to ensure the public’s financial interests were protected.
The vote was rushed because the Commission realized it had the ability to act - so it did. Now the shelter costs have skyrocketed to at least $12 million according to Commissioners Scott Carnahan and Ron Kitchen in the Oct. 26 meeting, and even with the incredible generosity from the public, there will need to be changes in the approach to cover costs.
Universal garbage could escalate just as quickly if rushed. The Commission should treat Tuesday’s meeting like the informational workshop it was supposed to be and not call for a vote even though they can.