Garbage pickup a messy situation
Some customers aren't paying their bills, a private trash hauler says. So it wants the county to approve a rate increase to make up for it.
By WILL VAN SANT
Published June 29, 2005
BROOKSVILLE - Waste Management, the private garbage hauler for more than 40,000 Hernando County customers, is tired of folks not paying their bills and wants a rate increase to cover lost income.
And if the County Commission fails to approve the increase, the company wants to bill customers through the tax rolls, or even place liens against their property.
That's the essence of a letter the garbage company's district manager, Brian Isaacsen, sent to County Administrator Gary Adams on June 23. The letter says that in Spring Hill's mandatory collections areas, Waste Management is serving customers who do not pay their monthly bill.
Facing the same problem in 2003, the company sent a letter to thousands of deadbeat customers it had identified in Spring Hill and demanded back pay. The letter caused outrage and calls from residents for the county to end its contract with Waste Management.
It might be that the company decided this time to solve the problem by reaching out to the county rather than to customers. A Waste Management employee, however, told a reporter Tuesday that Isaacsen was out of town until Monday and that only he could answer questions.
The company plans an across-the-board rate increase of 2.87 percent, an amount calculated from the Consumer Price Index, to cover higher fuel and labor costs. Frank McDowell III, the county's code enforcement director who is also interim head of solid waste management, said the company may raise rates based on the index without county approval.
But for the increases sought to deal with delinquent payments, McDowell said, the county's blessing will be needed.
According to McDowell and Waste Management's letter, the company wants to raise the monthly rate in the mandatory Spring Hill collection area - ZIP codes 34606, 34608 and 34609 - from $8.68 a month to $9.45.
In the nonmandatory Brookridge and High Point areas, the increase would be from $4.45 to $5.22.
In the nonmandatory Masaryktown and Hernando Beach areas, the increase would be from $6.58 to $7.35 a month.
None of those proposed increases include the index adjustment.
In its letter, the company asks that if the County Commission does not approve the new rates, customers in the mandatory collection area be charged on their tax bills. Barring such a move, the letter states, the company would place liens on the homes of delinquent customers.
McDowell said he is unsure when or how Waste Management's request will come before the County Commission. That's likely a decision in the hands of the county administrator, who is on vacation.
Regardless, stiff opposition can be expected from at least one board member when the matter is heard.
Commissioner Nancy Robinson, whose district includes Hernando Beach and parts of Spring Hill, said she welcomes discussion with the company on how to collect payments from delinquent customers.
But higher rates, especially in nonmandatory collection areas, she would fight, she said.
"Raising the price because there are some they can't collect from is unacceptable," Robinson said. "That is not an option."
--Will Van Sant can be reached at 352 754-6127 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Last modified June 29, 2005, 01:18:19]
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