County considering once weekly trash pickup, new waste contract

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – County trash pickup could go to one time a week and recycling could be made easier in a bid to trim costs in the county budget, commissioners discussed today.

Commissioner Bob Solari asked the county’s solid waste department staff to look at various options that could help save costs to both county residents and the county’s bottom line. While looking at those options, the county also plans to bid out waste collection services after attempts to reach an agreeable price for service with Waste Management Inc. of Florida failed.

Solid Waste Department Director Himanshu Mehta told commissioners Tuesday that the county and Waste Management officials could not come to a resolution over their contract price.

While the company wanted to increase the contract price, Mehta was directed by commissioners to cut costs in the department, which would have included possible cuts to the waste collection contract costs.

Commissioner Gary Wheeler cautioned his fellow commissioners that “just because” they plan to bid out the work, doesn’t mean that the bids will come in lower than what the county is already paying.

According to county records, the county’s current contract with Waste Management has a cost of $10.35 per ton of trash collected and handled at the main landfill.

Though Waste Management and the county could not agree to a contract price, the company did offer a 3-month extension to its contract at the current $10.35-rate to allow the county time to bid out the work.

Commissioners expressed their appreciation to Waste Management officials for agreeing to the extension.

“It’s unfortunate we have to sharpen our pencils across the board,” Commissioner Joe Flescher said of looking to cut costs in the county budget. He added that he hopes Waste Management can do the same.

Commissioners also directed staff to review the frequency of trash collection and how to encourage more residential customers to recycle.

Commissioner Bob Solari told the board that he would like staff to come back with recommendations before the county’s franchise agreement with the City of Vero Beach to provide waste collection services expires in a year.

“I know I barely fill up a garbage can once a week,” Solari said, noting his fellow Vero Beach neighbors are also in similar situations with their trash.

Solari said he’d like to hear from residents whether they want to continue with twice weekly pickup or if switching to once weekly would be preferred.

Commissioner Wesley Davis also asked staff to look at ways to make recycling easier for customers, citing Indialantic’s single-container recycling program, which does not require residents to sort their recyclables.

He said that the city found recycling increased amongst participants. Davis also wondered if there would be an increased cost associated due to the work needed to sort the recyclables.

Staff was asked to report back on the issue.

Davis also asked if there could be an impact to the county’s customer convenience centers – places where residents can drop off their trash between curbside collections – if the county were to switch to once weekly collection.

Commissioner Gary Wheeler also added to the discussion, suggesting that the county should consider mandating curbside collection if the county were to switch to once weekly pickup.

“It might be worth looking at it,” Wheeler said.

Davis said he would reserve judgment on mandating residential pickup, noting that it might make sense in the urban, high density areas but might not work as well for the rural areas.

The commissioners did not take a vote on the matters regarding once weekly trash collection, though they did have a consensus to have staff research the issues and report back.

There was no timeframe given for the presentation as there is about a year left on the franchise agreement between the county and the City of Vero Beach for collection.

“I’m in no hurry,” Solari said.

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