Trailer dumping to be denied at West Convenience Center

Beginning Aug. 8, all trailers will be banned from dumping at the West Hernando Convenience Center on Osowaw Boulevard in Spring Hill. Pickup trucks will be allowed to dump, and that has some residents complaining that the policy is unfair, especially for those who have trailers no larger than the bed of a pickup.

If you own a truck, you’re in luck. If you have a car and haul waste on a trailer to the West Hernando Convenience Center on Osowaw Boulevard in Spring Hill, starting Aug. 8 you’ll be turned away and advised to make the nearly 50-mile roundtrip to the main landfill on U.S. 98 at the Citrus County line.

While pickup trucks can continue to dump, cars with trailers — even trailers smaller than a pickup bed — will be denied access. Cars and other vehicles will be permitted as long as the trash is carried inside them.

A recent press release from the county attributes the trailer ban to scheduled construction work at the Convenience Center:

“Beginning August 8, 2022, Hernando County Solid Waste will be reducing services at the West Convenience Center on Osowaw Blvd. and no longer permitting trailers at this location. This is due to construction and maintenance including: repairing the metal chutes, pouring concrete, and replacing a retaining wall,” the release begins.

But the next paragraph notes that when those “upgrades are complete, trailers will no longer be permitted at this location.” No explanation is given.

It was a “little confusing” to Charles Greenwell, a Hernando Beach resident who uses a small trailer to take yard waste to the Osowaw Center. He asked County Commissioner Jeff Holcomb what he knew about the new policy. Holcomb, he said, believed the ban was temporary due to the construction project but made a phone call to county officials to be sure. Greenwell said Holcomb reported back to that he had confirmed the trailer ban would be temporary during the construction work.

That was a “miscommunication,” according to Dominique Holmes, Hernando County public information coordinator. The ban will be ongoing and was always intended to extend beyond the construction project, she said. Holcomb did not reply to phone messages seeking a comment.

After hearing concerns from residents, county commissioners on July 26 agreed to place the trailer ban on an upcoming agenda in order to make a decision.

Holmes said the trailer ban is needed to reduce the amount of waste being taken to the Convenience Center due to escalating costs to the county. Hernando trucks transfer waste from the Convenience Center to the main landfill as it piles up, and transportation costs and the volume of waste have gotten become too much, she said.

Asked if the county had considered that permitting trucks to unload but not trailers carrying the same or even smaller loads might be seen as unfair or punitive to those who don’t own pickups, Gordon Onderdonk, Hernando County Utilities director, was sympathetic.

He said a number of solutions were considered when coming up with a policy, and ultimately while “there is no perfect solution, we do feel this is the best way to move forward (after) looking at all the options for something that’s easy to understand for residents and easy to enforce.”

Onderdonk said the trailer ban also takes care of the problem of commercial dump trailers entering the West Convenience Center. They are not permitted, but he said it can be difficult to tell them apart from residents dumping their personal waste.

Onderdonk reminds residents that trailers are permitted at the main landfill, and while it is a longer drive for many, he said residents with small trailers may want to buy larger ones so they can take bigger loads so they can make fewer trips.

Greenwell said he intended to ask the board of county commissioners about the new policy.

“There isn’t any rational basis for a total trailer ban and I’m sure it wouldn’t stand up to a legal challenge,” said Greenwell, who believes the policy discriminates against car owners. Without a pickup truck, a trailer is the “only viable option” for hauling loads of yard waste, he said. He also isn’t keen on a county service being eliminated even as his taxes go up. Most Hernando County residents pay an annual solid waste assessment fee on their taxes.

The new policy is “punitive,” “discriminatory” and “stupid,” said Hernando Beach resident Sherilyn Smith. She suspects it might be an example of county staff deciding policy via email consensus without thinking through the impact on residents.

“All these little things are done without considering how they impact people,” Smith said. “A lot of elderly people have cars and trailers; they’re not going to buy a truck.

“It’s an inconvenience to go to the other landfill, especially with the cost of gas; Hernando County is not using common sense.”

Hernando resident Wally Carnley uses a 5- by-8-foot trailer with 2-foot-high sides to carry trash to the Convenience Center. Those are the dimensions of a full-sized pickup truck bed.

“It (the trailer) will hold about the same as a full-sized pickup,” Carnley said. “With big yard cleanups it’s pretty helpful.”

Carnley said the trailer ban “certainly bothers me for future needs because of the distance to the (main) county landfill.”

Resident Valarie Shelter doesn’t understand why the policy wasn’t simply changed to allow trailers no larger than pickup truck beds to ensure “everyone is being treated the same.”

“Me, my friends and my husband think it’s unfair,” Shelter said. She doesn’t have garbage pickup service and often uses a small trailer to carry her garbage cans to the Osowaw Convenience Center. Even if she could get the cans into her vehicle, “nobody wants that smelly stuff inside a car or SUV; that’s horrible.”

Shelter said she’s lucky because her husband owns a pickup truck, but she worries about people who don’t and will face “long and expensive” drives to the main landfill starting Aug. 8.

“That’s a long drive if you are a single woman on a budget and you only have a car and a trailer to haul things,” she said.

Smith and Greenwell worry the trailer ban will increase illegal dumping.

Smith said she has long lamented that the West Convenience Center isn’t open 24 hours a day, which she thinks would cut down on illegal dumping.

Greenwell is confident that once county commissioners hear more concerns from the public, they will see “this type of regulation has problems,” and “unless they can pull a rabbit out of their hats and explain the unfairness, they’ll have to address the discrimination factor.”

The main county landfill weighs trailers and a log is kept to allow residents to dump up to 2,000 pounds per year at no charge. Dumpers are charged for certain types of waste, like tires, land clearing debris, roofing and other items. Visit www.hernandocounty.us and use the link to Solid Waste and Recycling under the Departments menu for more.