ST. LUCIE COUNTY— One year from now, more than 20,000 unincorporated county Waste Pro customers may be paying 38% more — about $385 annually — to get their trash, recycling and yard waste collected.
There is one caveat, however. If Waste Pro exceeds $150,000 in fines this fiscal year, the county will not approve the 38% rate hike planned for October 2023.
Beginning this month, rates also will increase by $4.44 to a total of $23.65 per month. However, the county is going to cover that spike with money it earns from selling recyclables and landfill gas, as well as payments withheld to Waste Pro over the past years for poor performance.
The county is paying for the increase this year, which amounts to more than $1 million, to “minimize the financial impact to residents,” according to officials.
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Commercial rates will immediately increase by $2.68 per cubic yard of waste to a total of $10.01 per cubic yard of waste. The cost of a roll-off container will rise by about $233 per haul to $425.
These rate increases are a few examples of a slew of changes in Waste Pro’s contract the County Commission unanimously approved Tuesday.
For example, Waste Pro, St. Lucie’s contracted trash hauler since 2004, must also comply with the following requirements:
- Identify routes that have large piles of yard waste and determine what days they will be collected
- Use at least 13 rear-load trucks for residential waste collection
- Use at least five clam-shell trucks for bulky waste collection
- Pick up trash from no more than 850 homes per route
- Create a plan to phase in automatic side loader trucks
Commissioners praised county staff and Waste Pro employees Tuesday for drafting a plan aimed to improve trash collection, but warned that there’s still progress to be made.
“I don’t want to minimize the fact that we have all struggled through this,” Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky said. “The customers, our residents, have struggled. So, the pressure is on, and I think you guys can do it.”
Requiring Waste Pro to bring a more detailed plan to the table for when it phases in new equipment, such as automatic trucks, was one ask of Commissioner Frannie Hutchinson.
County officials emphasized how other Florida cities have also increased rates for solid waste services. For example, rates increased nearly 50% when Port St. Lucie hired FCC Environmentspanl Services of Floridspan in Mspany.
And in Palm Coast, customers saw a 59% increase when a new trash hauler was chosen in July.
For its part, Waste Pro will now pay the county $30 per ton of recyclables.
The company also will give the county up to $400,000 for a a bag-breaker to be installed at the county’s bailing and recycling facility.
These changes come in the wake of thousands of customer complaints in recent years because Waste Pro was late or failed to collect garbage.
To combat the poor service, the county has imposed fines on the hauler.
Waste Pro continuously attributes its failures on a worker shortage worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an attempt to return to timely trash collection, the county gave Waste Pro $523,000 from the CARES Act earlier this year.
The company has since taken strides to retain employees, such as switching to a four-day work week.
“We are committed to being here for the long run. Sure, we got behind. We stumbled,” Russell Mackie, Waste Pro regional vice president, told commissioners. “…We’re at a point now where we have enough trucks, we have more than enough people.”
Collection has improved in the past four months, according to county officials, and complaints have lessened.
This is not an issue exclusive to St. Lucie County. Five months ago, Port St. Lucie selected FCC to replace Waste Pro as its contracted trash hauler for $34.5 million. That decision came just eight months after the city sued Waste Pro over poor performance.