MADEIRA BEACH – Bids from waste haulers to continue providing recycling service to the city are in, and the costs have risen.
The lowest bidder is the current provider, but the price is $35,000 more than last year, City Manager Shane Crawford announced at the Oct. 22 City Commission workshop. The recycling service that had been offered to residents for free at a cost to the city of $1.57 monthly per household will now cost $2.50.
“In a tight budget year, that makes a lot of difference,” Crawford said. He told the commission the city cannot afford to continue providing recycling for free.
Crawford said city staff recommends charging residents what the city is paying, but since there was no warning, hold off imposing a fee until next spring. The fee, which would be charged along with the garbage service, would be $5 every other month, he said.
“That’s not a lot for the residents to pay, but the burden to the city (of providing free recycling) is $75,000 a year,” he said.
Crawford said offering residents free recycling made sense a year and a half ago when it was started, but now “we have bigger, more progressive and important projects for the public than giving away recycling.”
Vice Mayor Terry Lister said recycling was supposed to save the city money on regular trash pickup.
“Has that happened?” he asked.
It hasn’t, said Finance Director Vince Tenaglia.
The recycling service offered under the new contract includes recycling on the beach, with containers installed at the beach walkovers, Crawford said.
Recycling is a good practice, but the city has got to find a way to pay for it, said Crawford. A resident fee is needed, he said, because “our options to create additional revenues are very limited.”
The commission was agreeable to Crawford’s plan.
Rental property inspection law proposed
The number of substandard and rundown residential rental properties in the city could be drastically reduced if those homes were inspected regularly, said Commissioner Elaine Poe. Poe proposed the city adopt a home inspection ordinance modeled after one used by Daytona Beach. It includes permitting, inspection fees and an application. There are consequences if a rental property does not pass an inspection, she said.
Owners of houses to be inspected would be given a copy of what the inspectors will be looking for, so they will have an opportunity to fix up in advance, Poe said.
Property inspections would work with code enforcement deputies to bring home rentals up to standards. The process works, said Poe. She said Tampa “is busting up the city with these inspections.”
Poe said she had surveyed city residents on the property inspection issue and gotten “an overwhelming response.”
“They told me, ‘It’s about time,’” she said.
Commenting after the meeting, Poe said the home inspections are a way of getting people to take pride in their properties, and to take more pride in who they rent to.
Under the proposed ordinance, “we inspect the property, and they have to fix it up, or we shut it down. They have to clean up a property before they can rent it,” Poe said.
Sewage dumping by boaters ‘out of control’
Requiring boat owners to properly dispose of waste materials is needed to prevent the fouling of local waterways. The problem is growing worse, but enforcement of any pump-out ordinance will be difficult, City Attorney Thomas Trask said.
The city marina has a pump-out station, and a boat that will offer the service to boat owners is coming. The marina facility pumps out some boats, said Central Services Director Dave Marsicano. But many dump their sewage directly into the water, waiting until night to do it, he said. A number of boats do not even have holding tanks, Commissioner Poe pointed out.
Poe had wanted to require a pump-out log for boaters.
That is not allowed said Trask. State statutes do not permit the regulation of any sanitation device, he said.
Trask said the city can provide pump-out facilities. Notices can be posted on boats that pump-out is legally required by Florida law, along with penalties imposed for violations.
Marsicano predicted the pump-out boat “will make a big difference.” He said people are lazy and don’t want to bring their boat to the marina. Getting the boat is a key, he said. A grant that will enable the city to purchase a pump-out boat is being written now, said Crawford.
Resident Gary Rouse, who lives on the Intracoastal, said the polluting of local waters is a big problem. Bacteria readings taken near his home have been many times the allowable limits, he said.
Crawford agreed the situation is critical. “The readings are the readings,” he said. “We have to get it under control.” Crawford said the utilities may also be a contributor. Sewage pipes under the water will be checked, he said.
For now, the city’s solution will rest on educating the boating public that pump-out is required. Dumping sewage into the water is not allowed under state statute. The law will be strictly enforced and violations punished.
The education process “is a start,” said Poe. “Let’s start with simple things we can do to control it.”
Poe urged residents, “When you see (illegal dumping), report it.” She added, “We have a much improved code enforcement now.”
Poe said later she is continuing to look at enforcement options.
Revised to remove statement about increased fees for dumping at Pinellas County's landfill. According to Pinellas County Utilities, rates for disposal have no increased in more than 30 years.