Since 01/02/12, Republic Services has been the sole provider for waste and recycling collection services to Hernando County. The contract includes four weekly pickups: two days of garbage and various rubbish items, yard waste to be left at the curbside once a week, and one pickup of recyclable material. (This is called 2-1-1 service.) Recyclables are further broken down to plastics and paper/cardboard products which must be placed in separate containers.
As the sole provider, Republic’s 110 employees make a significant impact with their service. Seth Weightman, Republic’s Municipal Services Manager, noted that the company’s 236,000 weekly pickups equals more than 12.2 million pickups annually.
Currently, Republic serves almost three-fourths of the county. The county is divided into four districts, with separate pricing for each area. District C is a “mandatory” district, meaning that the cost is included in their monthly water bill. The other districts pay the company directly for the service, with an average monthly cost across the four districts of $8.96, or $0.52 per pickup.
Compared to Citrus (with two providers), Pasco and Polk Counties, Hernando County residents using Republic Services pay much less for more service. But even at the lower fees, Weightman stated that Republic has many households which have not paid. Since they began service in 2012, Republic has lost more than $300,000 from households which have not paid the bill, and paid $100,000 to the bill residents.
The original contract has been extended once already, in 2015, and expires in December 2018. Four months ago, the BOCC requested that Republic bring several proposals to be considered as they negotiate a new contract. One option is to simply extend the current contract for three more years, “as is,” with a modest increase.
The first change Weightman proposed was a transition from the monthly water bill payment to an annual non-ad valorem fee. Another option would be to use the water/sewer/trash index rather than the Consumer Price Index, which does not reflect the services Republic provides.
The current contract states that the frontline fleet should be changed to newer vehicles every five years, and reserves should be replaced by ten years. This puts a substantial burden on the company of approximately $285,000 per truck, for a base model. The county’s own requirement for fleet replacement is 10 years. Republic’s goal is to put 20 newer trucks, with better technology, on the road.
Republic will also provide “carts” or sturdy, wheeled trash receptacles. Weightman brought 65-gallon and 95-gallon carts to show the comparison. The County’s logo would be “heat-stamped” onto each cart, which would be maintained by Republic. At the contract termination, the County would then own the carts.
Suggestions from the commissioners included a type of “reverse 911,” where customers would be notified of any issues with the pickup; for example, if a truck broke down. Weightman stated this has been brought to the corporate offices and they are working with the IT department on a solution.
Customer satisfaction is important to Republic, which has “multiple layers of accountability,” said Weightman. The company has 24 hours to respond to customer concerns or face penalties per the contract. Customer perception is another area where Republic strives to excel, Weightman said, and calls are tracked corporately and performance is evaluated.
Public comments following the presentation reflected that there have been concerns with the services, or that residents in a mandatory area have no choice. Some were less than impressed with how those concerns are handled by the call center. Weightman said the national call centers were a new transition for Republic, and admitted that there can be “hiccups.”
In addition to the weekly call with Solid Waste Services Manager Scott Harper, Republic’s solution is to hire a 3-person local team to work with the Hernando County Utilities Department. One will update the records to accurately reflect the households in the mandatory area and those in new construction areas. The other two employees will be housed in the HCUD and will handle the local customer concerns.
Others asked for clarification about the carts, whether they could continue to put additional trash cans or loose bags out. The 95-gallon carts hold as much as three 30-gallon carts, but if another cart is requested, then two 65-gallon carts could be used.
Weightman stated that if the carts are used, they will provide customers with the 95-gallon cart for a 90-day trial period. If the customer prefers a smaller one, then they will be permitted to switch to the 65-gallon cart. If an additional cart is needed, Weightman stated they will consider either allowing the customer to purchase or rent another cart.
For perspective, Shirley Miketinac offered, “For someone to come out and pick up garbage? I am so grateful that there is someone who is willing to enter into a business to come take that away from us.” She remarked that the service is usually reliable and is half the cost charged by the previous company.
Commissioner Nick Nicholson proposed a motion to extend the contract with Republic another seven years, with the automatic pickup (using the carts) and the 2-1-1 service. Commissioner Steve Champion seconded the motion, which passed unanimously. No date on the transition to the carts was mentioned.