SEMINOLE – Although the expiration of the current contract with Waste Management is more than a year away, Seminole City Manager Frank Edmunds is seeking input from the City Council on the best direction to go with future waste services.
The city’s current contract – which calls for two trash pickups and one recycling collection per week – expires Nov. 30, 2013.
It also includes a $99,650 annual subsidy to Waste Management for the recycling program, which Edmunds wants to end.
“Quite frankly, that needs to disappear,” said Edmunds. “It may have made sense to help subsidize the program back in the early 1990s when it wasn’t in vogue to recycle. But based on the current environment, there’s really no need to continue it.”
The city has done business with Waste Management for 17 years and has the option of extending its contract for another five years.
But before that can be negotiated, Edmunds wants direction from councilors on which way to go.
The options include:
• Continue the same service without paying the taxpayer subsidy.
• Continue the same service with a larger recycling cart.
• Continue the same service with a larger trash cart and a larger recycling cart.
• Or go to once-a-week collection of both trash and recyclables.
The cost for the current service is $11.33 a month per residential household. Commercial trash collection in dumpsters is $4.67 a month per cubic yard.
Among the options on the table from Waste Management are twice-a-week residential trash pickups with homeowners using their own garbage cans, and once-a-week recycling collections using either a 36- or 65-gallon cart that would be provided by the city. This would cost homeowners $12.33 per month.
Another option is the same as above with Waste Management purchasing the carts. This would cost residents $13.25 per month.
Another possibility is once-a-week trash and recycling pickups with the city picking up the cost of the recycling carts. This cost would be $8.88 per month.
Yet another option is the same as above, with Waste Management picking up the cost of the carts. This would be $10.55 a month.
The advantage to the larger recycling carts over the current 18-gallon bins would be fewer recyclable items tossed into the trash and trash volume slowly decreasing. Should this occur in large volume, the city would have reason to renegotiate its contract down with Waste Management.
“All the contracts since I’ve been here have reserved to the city at any date to price out the services of other cities in the county,” said Edmunds. “And if we’re paying more, negotiate an adjustment down. It’s never been necessary because when we’ve reached those points and surveyed, we’ve either been on market or below market.”
Edmunds suggested the possibility of a minimum 36-gallon recycling cart.
“Maybe we should be putting a 36-gallon (recycling) container available to residents, so they can put mixed recyclables in, thereby reducing their trash stream,” Edmunds said. “A lot of the cities are going to the larger carts to encourage people to put more in them.”
Councilor Jim Quinn, who dealt with waste management issues in Connecticut, said don’t change the number of times per week that collections are made.
“If they want more containers, give them more containers,” he said. “Don’t try to tell them you’re going to eliminate one per week.”
Edmunds said a number of Pinellas cities are going to the larger trash containers.
“Largo is going to the larger trash container,” he said. “Clearwater, Dunedin and Oldsmar have the 90-gallon containers.”
He said Clearwater uses the 96-gallon container for trash and a 65-gallon cart for recycling.
He also noted that the waste management industry in general is moving toward once-a-week pickups because as more people recycle, there’s less trash.
“But there’s no one in Pinellas County currently doing once a week,” he said.
“Once a week, I don’t see the benefit in the dollars for our customers,” said Councilor Bob Matthews. “Because we’re serving our customers and all we’re going to hear is you’re taking my service away. The only way I can see going to once a week is if there is some kind of crisis.”
“This is a crucial issue and it’s going to blow up if it’s not handled properly,” said Waters. “People do not like change for the sake of change. I’m really not in favor of an increase at all. So status quo seems to be at this point the best direction.”
Once councilors give Edmunds a direction they want to see trash collections to go, the next step will be to decide if the city accepts one of the current Waste Management proposals or open it up for bids.
Edmunds said the safest thing is for the contract to go out for bid “because then you’re above criticism.”
But the price from Waste Management and others may come back higher than the current offers, he said.
“So it may not resolve what you thought you might get,” Edmunds said.
Further discussion is expected over the next month.