The issue of universal trash collection in Citrus County is scheduled to be decided by county commissioners on Nov. 30. While there are likely some benefits to having just one company collect trash, there are also some big negatives that need to be considered.
First, the citizens of Citrus County will forfeit their right to have a say in who collects their trash. If they get poor service, they do not have the option to change companies. Our country has a long tradition of valuing competition and has a number of federal anti-trust laws with the objective “to protect the process of competition for the benefit of consumers, making sure there are strong incentives for businesses to operate efficiently, keep prices down and keep quality up.” This concept applies on the state and local level, too. Its value can be appreciated when considering the degree of efficiency and service that one gets from agencies run by government as compared to those run by private companies.
Second, if universal trash collection is enacted, that will likely bankrupt the businesses who do not get the contract, and their right to conduct business in a free-enterprise system will have been trammeled. In addition, it will necessarily eliminate any leverage the county commission would have with the selected hauler, because there will be no option to switch to another company if their performance is unsatisfactory.
Third, unjustifiable, regular prices increases are a distinct possibility. A “consultant” has advised the county to increase its annual landfill fee more than 140% from $27 to $65. In addition, two of the three organizations submitting bids were significantly higher than many families in Sugarmill Woods currently pay. These companies will be saving considerable money by reducing operating expenses, so the cost to provide universal trash pickup should be less, not more.
There are other options. Individual communities could opt to have one hauler. That way, responsiveness to citizen concerns would remain closer to home, and the ability to remove an unsatisfactory hauler or negotiate a better price from competitors would not be lost. If that seems a better option, citizens need to let their county commissioner know before Nov. 30.
If county commissioners do vote to implement universal trash collection, the very least they should do is negotiate a contract that requires any cost increases to be justified and do not exceed cost-of-living increases.