Santa Rosa County has experienced robust growth over the past five years and is expected to continue growing. Here are some facts and figures on the area’s population and economy.
Annie Blanks, Pensacola News Journal
Changes in Santa Rosa County’s contract agreement with the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority means the cost of recycling in the county will go up by nearly 250% — a cost that officials say could ultimately be passed on to residents.
ECUA requested to terminate its existing contract with the county that it first entered into in June 2016, citing an increase in processing costs and the utility’s need to have its transport trucks available for other uses. Santa Rosa County Commissioners are set to approve a new contract at their Thursday morning meeting.
“We’re changing every single recycling contract we have with providers of the materials, simply because we can’t continue to process the materials at a loss,” said Steve Sorrell, executive director of ECUA.
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The old contract calls for ECUA to transport and process recyclables to the county’s Perdido Landfill in Cantonment for a total of $20 per ton, or approximately $160,000 per year. Under the new contract, ECUA will still process the recyclables but will no longer store and transport them. Sorrell said ECUA needs the trucks for “other items” and they will no longer be available for transporting recyclables.
The county is set to enter into an agreement with a new transport company that will cost an estimated $394,000 per year just to drive the recyclables from the county’s processing facility to the Perdido Landfill. Additionally, ECUA’s cost for processing alone will be raised from $9 per ton to $20 per ton, without the transportation.
In total, the cost to the county for recycling will go from $160,000 per year to approximately $554,000 per year.
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That could mean a big difference for taxpayers’ bottom line. Currently, Santa Rosa County residents pay $61.52 per quarter for trash, according to the county’s Environmental Manager Ron Hixson. With the price tag for recycling more than tripling, residents could expect to see higher trash bills by the end of the year.
But any increase would have to go first before County Commissioners, and Board Chairman Sam Parker said Wednesday he wasn’t aware of any cost increases to residents’ bills.
Sorrell said another factor in the decision to terminate the contract was the high amount of contamination in Santa Rosa’s recyclables.
“They have the highest contamination rate of any of the providers, and that’s created some issues,” he said. “Some of their loads are 38% contaminated, and you can’t recycle regular garbage, bowling balls, hoses, dead animals, things like that. Their loads have been so highly contaminated and we’ve been trying to get them to clean up their loads.”
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The county only expects to generate $288,000 in revenue from the $36-per-ton recycling tip fee, which is the fee the waste haulers pay the county. That leaves a shortfall of $266,000 per year under the new contract agreement. Parker said that figure will be paid out of the landfill enterprise fund.
Hixson said residents will see no changes to the current trash and recycling pickup schedule and no immediate changes to their bills.
The recyclables will go to the county landfill and will be treated as regular trash while the county works to finalize an agreement with the new transport company.
“We want people to keep doing just what they’re doing, because the collectors are required to pick that up on certain days of the week. They still have to do what they’re being paid to do,” Hixson said. “Unfortunately, right now, we have a very short time period to get all this in place.”
Annie Blanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8632.
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