Saturday, November 17, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando garbage fees to increase, billing system to change for some

BROOKSVILLE — Garbage fees, service and billing are riling Hernando County residents.

The County Commission on Tuesday will hold a public hearing to establish a new residential garbage billing system for those who live in a mandatory collection zone in Spring Hill.

Instead of garbage fees appearing on their water bills, those residents will have fees tacked on to their property tax bills, under a plan the commission tentatively approved last year.

Rates also are increasing next year. And waste collection contractor Republic Services will begin using an automated system, which has equipment lifting trash bins and mechanically dumping them into trucks.

Tuesday’s hearing has upset some Spring Hill residents.

Earlier this month, commissioners said they were inundated by emails and phone calls from residents unaware of the upcoming changes. Residents also were confused by a letter the county sent advertising Tuesday’s hearing.

Commissioner Jeff Holcomb called the communication "pretty horrific.’’

Republic has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of non-payment in the mandatory zone, Holcomb said, where everyone gets picked up and everyone is expected to pay. The arrangement isn’t good for part-year residents who pay for the year but don’t need service while they’re gone. However, the cost is well below that in surrounding areas, he said.

Some residents who got the confusing notice were more concerned about service problems with Republic. They complained about failed pick-ups of garbage, recycling and yard waste, some not realizing the rate increase was already approved last summer. The letter spread confusion, county officials said, and they put out another notice to try to clarify.

The Republic Services contract was set to end this year. Last July, the Commission unanimously agreed to extend the contract for seven years. With that agreement, came the plan to automate garbage collection and raise fees.

The county promised an education blitz later this year to explain the new system and announce when Republic will deliver new bins.

Residents in the mandatory zone in Spring Hill 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.

Republic service problems caused the county to level a $135,300 penalty against the company last month.

"That’s improving, but it’s not perfect yet,’’ Commission Chairman Steve Champion said. "We need to do a better job.’’

"We are monitoring,’’ said Jeff Rogers, deputy county administrator. "They have improved, but not yet gotten to where we want.’’

The company said missed routes were due to its struggle to keep workers. Automated pick-ups starting in 2019 with help with that, because they require only one person per crew, Rogers said.

"I’ve gotten tons of emails on trash,’’ said Commissioner John Allocco. "They have to provide the service that they are paid for.’’

Commissioner Wayne Dukes said he was told by Republic Services that the company was out $300,000 because of unpaid bills. With that level of deficit, Dukes said, "you can’t sustain a business.’’

Contact Barbara Behrendt at bbehrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

>>>Previous coverage:> Republic Services admits poor garbage services in Hernando County, pays fine>>

>>>Previous coverage:> Hernando approves new trash collection contract; customers get price increase>>

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