Florida Keys News
Sunday, August 3, 2014
City trash bills to rise $37 a year
Commission to decide whether to approve new rates

The tab for a new 7-year trash contract exclusive to Waste Management is about to come due for Key West residents.

To fund the contract specially chosen by a 4-3 city commission to ensure Waste Management would retain the deal, residents will have to chip in an additional $37.23 next year, paying $356.28 per "dwelling unit" rather than the present-day $319.05.

That proposed residential rate, which includes hauling and disposal, is an across-the-board price for city residents, whether they fill their curbside collection spot with garbage or recycling.

Revenue from solid waste pickup is estimated to reach $4.8 million in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

City commissioners will take up the divisive issue of trash collection services during their 6 p.m. Tuesday meeting at Old City Hall.

In May, a split commission handed a 7-year, $53 million trash collection contract to Waste Management despite staff's advice to go with a new hauler, Advanced Disposal, which submitted the lowest bid for standard trash pick-up.

Dozens of Waste Management supporters showed up to praise the company, their workers and local manager Greg Sullivan, a rotary member and past president of the Key West Chamber of Commerce.

In order to stick with the industry leader, which hasn't had competition for the Key West job since 1999, commissioners picked an option that staff only put out there for informational purposes: Privatize the city's transfer station and revert to twice weekly curbside collections.

Advanced's bid for those combined services in addition to residential hauling came in lower than Waste Management, thereby qualifying as the "lowest" bid, according to the logic of the four commissioners who voted it in.

Commissioners Teri Johnston, who was the lone dissenter in favor of a new trash hauler, voted against it, along with Mayor Craig Cates and Commissioner Jimmy Weekley.

Cates and Weekley wanted to stick with the once weekly trash pickup scheduled installed last summer in an effort to improve the island's 7 percent recycling rate.

The rate quickly tripled due to the new schedule and new blue 64-gallon recycling carts the city sunk $631,000 into as part of the change.

Now, commissioners must vote on whether to approve a new $356.28 annual solid waste residential "user fee charge."

The maximum rate over the next four years is $393.08, according to the staff memo from Michael Turner, the city's utilities collection manager.

If the rate is approved, the city will then send out notices to all Key West property owners about the rate increase and set a public hearing on the rates for 6 p.m. Sept. 3 at Old City Hall.

Once noticed, residents have 20 days in which to lodge written objections with the commission.

Commissioners can always choose to keep the solid waste budget at its current level. "This option is not recommended by city staff or our consultants," Turner wrote.

"Another advantage of the utility billing on the property tax roll is that residents have the opportunity to receive a discount on their utility user fees through early payment of property taxes."

Whatever rate the city commission selects, the decision must be made Tuesday, Turner added.


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