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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 1 year ago

Ocoee to utilize contractor for residential solid waste program

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Waste Connections Inc. currently handles commercial trash services for the city, but will now also handle the residential services as well — including recycling.
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

The city of Ocoee will no longer handle residential solid waste services in-house.

City leaders voted 4-1 during the Aug. 20 commission meeting to allow a private contractor to handle the residential solid waste services in Ocoee. Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen was the opposing vote. Waste Connections Inc. currently handles commercial and apartment solid waste services in the city, and will handle residential solid waste services, including recycling, in the upcoming fiscal year.

The decision to utilize a private contractor was driven by the rising costs associated with the city’s residential solid waste program. Disposal and operating costs for the program have increased by more than $500,000 since the city last increased the rates for the program in 2008. Service fees for the program needed to be increased because of these rising costs, and selecting a private contractor was the least costly option for residents out of four options that Public Works Director Steve Krug presented to the commission.

The service fee Ocoee residents currently pay or solid waste is $252 a year, which is $21 a month. That fee will be increasing to $264 per year, or $22 per month, in the upcoming fiscal year, which represents a 4.8% increase from the current rate. Additionally, the fee will increase annually by 1.4%. 

Waste Connections Inc. will be providing the same level of service the city currently offers: two garbage pick-ups per week, one yard waste pick-up per week, one bulk pick-up per week and recycling every other week, Krug said.. 

“They would provide a full-time service rep in the city (and) they would have a part time supervisor,” Krug said. “The public works team would take calls and relay the calls to the service representative. Public works would still take the lead as the liaison for customer service … but the roaming service rep would handle any late collections, carts being put out, carts needing repair, cart replacements to even cart deliveries and any other customer service related issue.”

Prior to selecting the option of utilizing a private contractor for the residential solid waste program, city leaders discussed four options with how to move forward with the residential solid waste program. The first option was to keep everything in-house and maintain the current level of service as well as increasing the service fee to $289.50 per year, which is $24.13 per month. The second option was to keep services in-house, but utilize a central drop location for recycling. That option would have required the fee to increase to $284.64 per year, which is $23.72 per month. The third option was to maintain the current in-house program, but also completely suspend recycling services. With the third option, the fee would have to increase to $272.28 per year, which is $22.69 per month. The fourth, least costly and selected option was to utilize a private contractor. 

Due to poor experiences in the past with a previous contractor for residential solid waste services, some commissioners were initially hesitant about the idea of going back to a private contractor, but Wilsen was openly against the idea. 

“I think I made it clear at the (budget workshop) that I’m probably not interested in privatizing it — we’ve been there before,” Wilsen said. “It was not a situation that I want to relive. … It was a terrible situation. Shame on us. We are being reactive and not proactive. We haven’t raised these (residential solid waste) rates since … 2008, so we’re talking 11 years. So now, we come to a situation that we have to do something because we (didn’t) want to raise our rates for customers.”  

Mayor Rusty Johnson said he supported privatizing the resident solid waste program because he’s in favor of saving residents money, and privatizing was the least costly way to move forward.

“One of the things that our responsibility is up here is — I don’t care if it’s a dollar — we’re here to save money for the citizens,” Johnson said. ‘It all comes down to what we can do (to save money). … We’re trying to lower the rates of everything in the city. We’re getting more money into the city under ad valorem. We’re getting more money in through the business of economic development, so I have no problem looking at (contracting) because what happened back then was a separate incident.” 

Although this change minimizes the fee increase to residents, 11 jobs in the city’s public works department will be impacted. Krug said there are other employment opportunities available in the city for the impacted individuals, and added that Waste Connections Inc. is open to hiring those individuals because they already know the routes.

“We would definitely offer people any positions in the city, within the city departments, sort of like the city has done before when positions were done away with,” Krug said. “The contractor, they need people who know the routes, and all of our drivers are certified. We know they past the test we have — the physical and drug test. … They would probably be making more money (with Waste Connections Inc.)”

Waste Connections Inc. also would be able to purchase the city’s garbage trucks if the trucks are equipped meet the company’s needs, Krug said.

“(Waste Connections Inc.) would purchase any usable equipment from our current fleet, and anything they didn’t want to purchase because it didn’t fit their model, we would surplus,” Krug said. 

Eric Gutierrez is a staff writer with the West Orange Times & Observer and the West Orange Observer. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a double major in Journalism and Political Science. Contact Eric at...

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