Local News

City moves again toward privatizing garbage collection

SEBRING - For the second time year, the city of Sebring's solid waste committee has recommended that the city contract with a private company for residential and commercial garbage pickup . Council members Andrew Fells and John Clark, who favored that during the original bidding process, voted to recommend that the city select Waste Services Inc. to provide garbage collection services. WSI also contracts with Highlands County. But Council member John Griffin said he believed the city would benefit from keeping the service in-house. Like the previous time, he voted against recommending a private company. The council determined last time that the bids did not meet specifications and the specifications were possibly confusing.
Even if the full council accepts the committee's recommendation, the question of when the city will begin recycling remained in question. City Administrator Scott Noethlich said that the city is waiting for Highlands County to resolve the issue and possibly set up a recycling center where the city could have its solid waste transported. Bidders included options for recycling services. Overall, committee members said WSI provided the lowest rates. Although WCA had lower residential rates, its proposed commercial charges were higher, city officials said. WSI proposed two residential garbage pickups a week for $11.05 a month, which is lower than the current city rate of $12.75. Although the rate would be lower if the city accepts WSI's proposal, that doesn't mean people's garbage rates will drop. Noethlich said the additional revenue will be put back into the city's general fund and used to keep property taxes low. "It's not like it disappears," he said. WCA proposed a residential rate of $9.80, but it proposed commercial rates, that in some cases, were more than double that of WSI. In one example, WSI would charge $329.44 to pick up two cubic yards of garbage six times a week. WCA would charge $782. Even with WSI offering lower rates, Griffin said, he believes the city operation is being run successfully to the point where more money is being put into the general fund, keeping property taxes lower. Griffin also said the city has helped downtown events and that the private companies would charge for those services. That seems to contradict the city's decision to support having more downtown events, he said. But in moving toward contracting with a private company, the city loses its liability, while getting revenue, Fells countered. Fells and Clark, though, disagreed with Griffin on the committee's role, saying the panel was formed to review the bids, not to decide whether the city should privatize garbage service. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834