By Hannah Lester
Curbside trash collection is coming to Lee County.
The Lee County Commission voted Monday night to implement curbside solid waste collection during a special called meeting.
The county will now offer household curbside collection contracted to an outside agency and will also keep a few of the county drop-off sites open two days a month.
The drop-off sites would be available on one weekday and one Saturday a month. They would be fenced off at other times and inaccessible to the public.
Bulk pickup would be handled with an on-demand system, said Environmental Services Director John McDonald at the commission meeting on June 14. Citizens would call the county and request a pickup and pay a fee in advance.
This option would involve two county litter crews, as well.
The commission agreed during that meeting on June 14 to hold a public hearing Monday. However, the commission already seemed decided on choosing the option before them to change from dumpster collection sites.
“Over the years, as the system has had to grow with the growth of the county, more citizens coming and bringing to a system like this, we were able to keep up initially,” said County Engineer Justin Hardee. “It slowly outpaced itself.”
Hardee presented numerous reasons a change is necessary, including the abuse of the system, the amount of trash collection that takes place, the overworked employees, dumpster diving, dumpster fires and more.
McDonald said on June 14 that over the last five years, there has been a 6,000 tonnage increase in waste collection. The more the county collects, the more it pays for disposal too, he said.
“We’re the only county in the state that is utilizing the system like the one we have here,” he said.
During the public hearing, citizens voiced their concerns about changing systems.
One citizen, John Sophocleus, said he doesn’t know if the county will run this system well.
Sophocleus suggested using parks and rec land for collection or offering a vote to citizens. A second citizen backed up the idea for a vote.
Some citizens requested certain dumpsters remain open, with fences, such as the Loachapoka one.
Rita Harman, a local business owner and foster parent, said that with 15 people, on average, in her home, they create a lot of waste.
She wanted to know what the cost would be to her family for the number of cans they need — they currently use four 90 gallon cans.
Right now, the cost will not go up, said Probate Judge Bill English. It will remain $18.50 a month.
“We hope that the reduction and the abuse by all of the non-authorized users will more than offset the additional cost and we may not have to go up,” he said.
Should the cost need to go up, that will not happen for over a year, English said. And if it does go up, English said the county expects the cost to rise by $3 a month.
However, for Harman’s family, they will need additional cans, rather than just the one the county will provide.
If they need three or four additional cans, that will cost $10 a can, Hardee said.
“I’m going to have to go up,” Harman said. “Any amount on our budget is tough. So, for people who are abusing it, is frustrating.”
She said she believes litter will increase, as will burnings. Hardee said that adding a litter crew should help.
There was a citizen in attendance that was in favor of the new plan, Ernest Griggs.
“I stand with the commission in making what’s called C H A N G E. Change,” he said. “It’s way past time and it’s needed. We need change.”
Following the public hearing, District 5 Commissioner Richard LaGrand asked that the vote be postponed until the commission meeting.
“I still have a couple questions,” LaGrand said. “So, I think we ought to vote on it at the next meeting.”
District 3 Commission Gary Long, however, made a motion to accept the new plan.
“I don’t think you’re going to be for it, regardless,” Long said. “And, I’m sorry. I am.”
The motion passed on a vote of 4-1.