Twice weekly trash pick-up: Walton commissioners ask Waste Management for new service plan
SANTA ROSA BEACH — Waste Management, the private trash hauler that provides garbage collection services across Walton County under an agreement funded with a 1% local sales tax in place since 1994, has been asked to provide the Walton County Board of County Commissioners with a plan to standardize trash collection in the county, including the cost of such a plan.
In an effort led by Commissioner Danny Glidewell, the board spent part of its Tuesday meeting talking with Ronnie Bell, who manages Waste Management government contracts across Northwest Florida, about establishing uniform trash collection services for the north and south ends of the county. Additionally, commissioners talked with Bell about Waste Management providing 96-gallon rolling trash containers to each household.
Over the years, the various contractors who provided garbage collection provided varying levels of service in different parts of the county. Today, Bell told commissioners, standardizing service across the county would mean providing twice-weekly garbage service, once-weekly pickup of yard waste, and once-monthly collection of bulk waste such as household furniture, appliances and building materials left over from do-it-yourself home projects.
"We have no issue providing whatever the board directs us, or directs (county government) staff to work with us on," Bell said.
"It will just take a little time, but we can get you that information (including the cost of providing 96-gallon collection carts to each household in the county)," Bell added. "You just give us direction on what you want, and we'll figure it up."
Under questioning from Commissioner William "Boots" McCormick, Bell acknowledged that in some instances picking up residential garbage twice weekly might be too much, but he added that picking it up that frequently virtually assures that garbage remains inside its container.
"If it's loose, we're not going to pick it up," he said.
At the end of the discussion, Bell was directed to come back to the commission as soon as possible with a countywide collection plan and the cost. He also was directed to return with a cost to provide a collection cart for each household, but the commission will consider that option separately.
In other business Tuesday, commissioners began laying the groundwork for developing "continuity of operations" and "continuity of government" plans by directing the county's emergency management director to help county departments and personnel, including commissioners, develop those plans.
The issue was raised by Commissioner Mike Barker, a former emergency management director for the county, who argued that circumstances like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic or other emergencies such as hurricanes could seriously compromise the ability of top-level county government officials and departments to do their work.
"If something happens to our management personnel ... what happens?" Barker asked. "Who runs the show? Who would take over? ... When stress levels are high, when emotions are high, that's not the time to be figuring these things out."
Amplifying Barker's point, Emergency Management Director Jeff Goldberg told commissioners that even lesser circumstances than a pandemic — such as a sewerage leak that leaves a critical county government facility unusable — provide an argument for developing continuity plans to ensure that the county government remains capable of responding to critical needs of residents.
Emergency management has a continuity of operation plan in place for itself that delineates an alternate operational site for the department in the event it is needed, Goldberg said. Emergency management also has worked with the Walton County Sheriff's Office to help the agency update its plan for continuity of operations.
Beyond that, Goldberg suggested that a continuity of government plan could establish clear lines of succession so that everyone would know who is in charge if an emergency leaves some officials unable to discharge their duties.
Goldberg told commissioners that continuity plans don't necessarily need to be massive.
"It could be something small," as long as it sets up a process so government departments "can continue to operate should something happen."