CLEWISTON — Hendry County commissioners finally approved some “cleanup” amendments this month to the solid waste ordinance that they’d authorized in the spring and then put off during the summer when related concerns arose. But their tougher decision-making on providing large-capacity bins/toters for solid waste and recyclable materials for all residents in unincorporated areas was put off until their first meeting of 2019.
According to a report provided to the county board Nov. 13 by Public Works Director R. Shane Parker, the decision will affect assessment rates for the next several years that are paid as part of county property-tax bills for the Solid Waste MSBU (Municipal Services Benefit Unit).
The two were separate items on their agenda, and Commissioner Karson Turner questioned whether his colleagues were “ready to take action on this tonight?” Commissioner Michael Swindle said, “I hope not.” Mr. Turner added, “I feel woefully unprepared.” Commissioner Darrell Harris also said: “I couldn’t take action on it tonight. I’d like to keep it right now the same as we had it.”
County Attorney Mark Lapp explained: “This ordinance is ... pretty minor stuff. I understand you have some concerns about toters; that’s a separate item. This is a public hearing on the amendment of the ordinance. I don’t know why we’d delay this.”
Mr. Turner said he didn’t want to act on anything relating to changing the fees or services being rendered. “I still want to have some other conversations with the vendor and get educated,” he admitted. Mr. Swindle said, “I don’t disagree, but we need to concentrate on the ordinance first,” and moved that it be adopted. Commissioner Harris seconded.
But Mr. Turner called for discussion and pointed out, “This means that if your TV is 60 pounds or more, and you put it out on the curb, then you have to arrange for it to be picked up.” Attorney Lapp explained that it actually would make the law easier to comply with, more “customer-friendly,” because “right now, every TV would have to be a special pickup.”
When it was pointed out that many sets being disposed of now are not necessarily heavy, but flat-screens that just are very large, Commissioner Turner responded, “I’m going to make a prediction that we’re still going to have TVs on the curb, because they’re too big now.” To which Mr. Harris answered, “They’ll have to call in now.”
Mr. Turner retorted, “That’s the problem, Commissioner Harris. They don’t want to call in. I’m afraid that we’re going to give the waste hauler the ability to squirt out of it again and say, well, it’s another charge that’s going to come from them to the constituent.”
Mr. Harris claimed there’s no extra charge for bulk pickup (which under the amendment now will include sets over 60 pounds), and Mr. Parker confirmed it. “That’s good to know,” said Mr. Turner. “It helps me put a little bit of heartburn away.”
Then he asked whether there might be any unintended consequences from clarifying in the ordinance that RV parks regulated under Florida Statute Chapter 513 all now must be treated as commercial accounts, not single residential units.
Mr. Lapp clarified that residential dwellings are subject to the county’s MSBU special assessment separately and mobile-home parks “generally are not” unless the sites are individually owned. “Commercial accounts are a bill directly from the waste hauler to the private entity,” meaning the RV park owner, he said.
“So they have to have a dumpster,” Mr. Turner asserted. Mr. Lapp said they could have individual accounts and curbside pickup if they paid the per-lot special assessment but otherwise would have large communal trash bins.
“The statute has been on the books for a few years, and we just became aware of it,” he noted, saying the amendments were needed to comply with state law and make the county ordinance conform to actual practices. They were approved unanimously, 4-0, with Chairman Mitchell Wills absent.
Mr. Turner moved to table the talks about purchasing large toters for all unincorporated-area residents until Jan. 8, and the board assented.