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Trash haulers seek fee increase

By ASJYLYN LODER
Published May 23, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - Take out your trash? Please open your wallets.

Trash collectors want more money for picking up your garbage. Proposed monthly increases range from 95 cents to $3.39.

Beleaguered waste haulers told the County Commission Tuesday that they were losing money. All their costs have risen: fuel, tires, insurance and labor.

"We're bleeding in Hernando County, " said Joe Assalti, general manager of Seaside Sanitation. "Actually, we're probably hemorrhaging."

You think you've got it bad with gas prices? Assalti said his trucks get 3 1/2 miles to the gallon.

He estimated that his company lost more than $200, 000 last year picking up Hernando County's trash.

"We need some help, and we need it quick, " Assalti told the commission, arguing for a monthly rate increase.

Commission Chairman Jeff Stabins said it was the quietest rate increase hearing he'd ever seen. Other than struggling haulers, only one member of the public chimed in. Janey Baldwin said her trash collectors do a wonderful job, and she just wanted to say thanks.

Stabins said he'd work with the haulers to look for savings, possibly by scaling back service to once-a-week pickup. Commissioners held off on approving any rate increase until they can talk further with the haulers. It will be reconsidered within 30 days, said County Administrator Gary Kuhl.

Landlords get break

In yet another casualty of the housing slowdown, landlords complained bitterly Tuesday about being charged for water and sewer they don't use.

Hernando County Utilities Department charges property owners a base rate of $17.33 a month for water and sewer, or $5 for just water, even if the property is vacant and the service is shut off.

The money helps maintain the lines, said Michael Cox, customer service manager for the department. The county started charging the base rates in 2005.

Last summer, landlords complained about having to pay months of charges now that tenants, who normally pay the water and sewer bill, are harder to find.

On Tuesday, the County Commission approved a temporary "landlord policy" that gave them a 90-day grace period to get the property rented. The County Commission also agreed to study the issue further, and reconsider the policy in 90 days.

Streamlining reviews

The County Commission agreed Tuesday to streamline its development review process.

Developers complained that it took too long to go from department to department to make sure a proposed development met code requirements.

Commissioner Diane Rowden worried that meetings could violate the Sunshine Law. A 2002 lawsuit by the Coalition for Anti-Urban Sprawl and the Environment argued that closed meetings among staff members violated the law. A judge agreed, and forced development review committee meetings to be open the public.

The "roundtable" meetings - involving departments like code enforcement, utilities, public works and planning - will be open the public, said Larry Jennings, the assistant county administrator. The code review group doesn't approve development, stressed Kuhl, the county administrator. It reviews plans for code compliance.

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at aloder@sptimes.com or 352 754-6127.

Fast Facts:

Comparing rates

The cost of trash collection might go up in Hernando County. Here's how much more you'll be paying each month if the new rates are approved:

Central Carting: old rate, $7.62; increase, $3.31; new rate: $10.93.

Seaside Sanitation: old rate, $7.61; increase, $3.39; new rate: $11.

Waste Management, Areas C and D: old rate, $7.06; increase, $1.40; new rate, $8.46.

Waste Management, Area F: old rate, $4.78; increase, $0.95; new rate, $5.73.

Source: Hernando County Commission