SEBASTIAN — Are residents willing to pay nearly 200% more for trash collection?
That’s the question city officials will be asking at two special meetings — at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday in City Hall — where residents can say what type of trash service they want and how much they’re willing to pay for it.
Current provider Waste Management wants to raise its rate 191%, from $14.42 per month to $42 per month, in a new franchise agreement that would take effect July 1. Waste Management was the only company to bid on Sebastian’s new trash-collection contract.
Currently, the resident of a single-family home can can subscribe to solid-waste pickup twice a week and yard-waste pickup once a week for an annual cost of $173.04. In a new contract, the new rate would push that same service to $504 a year.
Waste Management would offer other options — such as reducing curbside collection to once a week — but that would lower the cost to $27.75 a month or $333 a year, still almost double what customers now pay.
Other options include switching to universal service, where all residents, not just subscribers, receive trash pick-up and are billed on their tax bills. That, however, would raise the cost to $29.74 a month or $356.88 annually for once-weekly service.
Costs going up across the region
In September, residential trash customers in Port St. Lucie saw a 50% cut in trash collection together with a 50% increase in rates. The city dumped Waste Pro and hired FCC Environmental Services Florida, and customers now pay $35.28 per month or $423.36 per year, an increase of about $138 annually.
In Indian River Shores, residents now pay Republic Services $29.34 per month, plus an additional $14.70 a month for recycling, bringing their annual cost to $528.48. That rate hike took effect Dec. 1.
Even though the cost for trash collection is rising throughout the area, Waste Management’s proposed increase “is a significant issue for our residents,” Sebastian City Manager Paul Carlisle said.
“We’ve polled other municipalities, and their costs have gone up, too,” said Carlisle. “But we want the public to have an opportunity to address this issue. We want to ask them if they want to go to universal service or stay with subion. Costs are going to be significantly higher, and the amount of service could change, but I think it’s important to let the citizens have some voice in this.”
Officials shocked by the proposed increase
Mayor Fred Jones said he was shocked to learn how much more money Waste Management wants for the same service.
“It’s a big number to me,” said Jones. “The numbers they came back with were way too high. This is definitely something the public needs to weigh in on.”
For its part, Waste Management is pleased to be Sebastian’s waste contractor for more than 20 years, said company Community Affairs Manager Amy Boyson.
“Our current contract expires in June,” said Boyson. “Waste Management participated in the city’s request for proposal process for a new contract. Our pricing reflects a fair-market cost to provide the services the city requested. The rate reflects the current state of the market that has been impacted by inflation.”
Whether residents want to stick with subion service or switch to universal collection is a big decision, and they should have a say on the outcome, according to Councilman Bob McPartlan.
“We might have to go out and re-bid the whole thing,” McPartlan said. “This is for five years, with a renewable five years.”
But rebidding the contract would be problematic because of timing, Vice Mayor Chris Nunn said. If the city asked for a new round of bids, it could be left without a trash hauler when the current contract expires, he said.
No matter the sentiment from Monday’s meetings, the City Council must make a decision at its meeting Wednesday. Otherwise, there won’t be time for Waste Management to order new trucks and carts that would be required in the new contract, Carlisle said.