NEW PORT RICHEY — During an April 2 work session, the County Commission gave a “thumbs-up” to a $190 million expansion of the county resource recovery plant and additional curbside recycling pickups.
The county has been facing for over a decade the prospect of adding a unit to its plant in the Shady Hills area that burns garbage to produce electricity.
Michael Carballa, assistant county administrator for public services, said the options commissioners considered April 2 came after a six-month pilot study in two communities of the proposed changes to the garbage pickup cycle.
During the study conducted last year, the pickup scheduled was modified to twice-week non-recyclable garbage and once-a-week recycling pickups. For years, the private waste haulers operating in Pasco have been required to pick up recyclable materials once every other week.
“We basically doubled the recycling rate,” said Solid Waste Director John Powers. “It gives us one or two years before we have to start planning for (waste plant) expansion.”
He said the current cost to recycle is $45 per ton.
“Forty percent of the (recyclable) waste stream is glass and what we are going to propose is that it be removed because it has no value,” Powers said. “It would help in the overall cost to the county and the taxpayers by removing it.”
He noted a resolution had been passed in 2007 that established an annual assessment for the haulers “and we haven’t done so since 2009.”
The proposal would increase the collection ceiling by a base rate adjustment of $2.69, which, according to Carballa, would bring the haulers “where they should be at the current time.”
Another adjustment of $1.76, which covers the additional recycling would bring the total monthly charge to $16.89 from the current $12.44.
Officials say they expect the ordinance changes would take approximately eight months to implement, with a strong effort to educate the public on how the changes would affect their garbage pickup cycles.
Although the change would give some time before waste plant expansion would need to be addressed, commissioners were unanimous in their views that process should start immediately.
Powers said the resource recovery plant is operating at its maximum capacity with 343,000 ton per year and continuing at that rate would max out the site by 2054. If we are looking forward at expansion we need to pretty much start that process right now,” he said. “That sounds far away, but it would normally be a four- to five-year process.”
He said that could be shortened by the fact it is not a greenfield “and we are starting fresh should make it much easier.”
“Looking at the projections, we need to have it up and running by 2026,” Powers said.
Commissioners gave a tentative approval to a funding option that would include an assessment increase of $7 per equivalent residential unit which would help fund the expansion and keep an appropriate debt service. Rates could be increased $32 and $40 in fiscal years 2025 and 2026.
The County Commission will still hold public hearings on the issue before a final decision is made for the changes.