By Tamas Mondovics

During a special workshop earlier this month, Hillsborough County Commissioners voted unanimously to select a new service option to the way residential garbage and recyclables are collected.

Known as “2-1-1 Automated Service,” the new way is only a partial change as County residential garbage customers will continue to receive twice-weekly garbage collection, once-weekly recyclables collection, and once-weekly yard waste collection.

The modification, however, has to do with the automation of the process, meaning that beginning in October 2013, residents will be bringing garbage and recyclables to the curb in standardized wheeled carts or cans provided by the County for emptying by specially-equipped trucks.

Commissioners are scheduled to award contracts to private haulers for residential collection in each of five newly-defined districts during a regular board meeting on Thursday, January 24, while commercial customers will still be able to negotiate directly with any of the private haulers for collection.

According to county spokesperson, Michelle Van Dyke, the 2-1-1 Automated Service option is projected to save the County more than $7.5 million annually, estimated to be $52,790,108 over the seven year contract, a 22 percent reduction than if the current contracts had been renewed.

The decision affecting more than 250,000 households throughout unincorporated County was the end result of a long process, culminating in a series of five public meetings to help residents understand the four service options and fees, as well as voice their thoughts.

“BOCC wanted to know what residents thought about the new garbage collection options before reaching a decision,” said Willie Puz, with the County Communication and Digital Services.

Commissioners reportedly cited trends in the industry, safety for workers, and the convenience and sturdiness of the carts that will be provided, while industry consultant Mitch Kessler reminded the board that approximately seven million residents in Florida, including the City of Tampa, already have automated collection service.

Besides the concern over cost, many still have concerns over the size of the new automated containers, which include 95, 65, 35 and 32 gallon cans.

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