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Longboat Key OKs trash-rate hike but will keep watching

Waste Management Inc. gains approval for the 10.01% increase, but leaders will monitor the increases agreed to by surrounding communities.

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Add trash collection to the list of things that will cost you more this year as compared to years past.

And although town leaders said they understood the reasoning behind the recently granted request by Waste Management Inc. for a 10.01% increase in rates charged to Longboat Key residents and businesses, it doesn’t mean they were happy about it.

"I am usually never a fan of amending contracts, but I drive a Subaru, and yesterday it cost me at the pump $78 to fill up, so I know this is an extraordinary time for anyone who has vehicles on the road," Commissioner BJ Bishop said. "Part of me wanted to say, 'Let’s just do away with Thursday trash pickup,' but coming into the summer, with only one power outage with one storm, there’d be a lot of stinky garbage in the street."

No change in service is taking place, with twice-weekly garbage collection and once-a-week recycling collection remaining the norm. But for the typical single-family household, the rate that appears on monthly bills will move from $16.19 to $17.72, taking effect on July 1 for billing on Aug. 1.

Condominiums that rely on central locations for trash pickup will see a similar increase in the rates charged to the governing association. James Linkogle, project manager for the Public Works Department, said what individual residents see on their bills would be a matter of how much of the increase the association cares to pass along to residents.

Jason White, a representative of Waste Management, told commissioners that Longboat Key is the first of the municipalities it serves to see the rate increase, but he assured them all the company’s other clients will follow.

Waste Management’s agreement with the town typically allows the company to seek up to a 4% increase in annual rates. In requesting the 10.01% increase, Waste Management cited the results of an economic formula that considered a 27.5% increase in fuel costs and an increase in the consumer price index of 8.07%. The company provided figures that showed the cost of diesel fuel rose from $2.60 a gallon to $3.51 in 2021.

"Recovering costs to overcome these inflationary pressures is vital to enabling WM to continue to invest in our people, new technology and equipment," wrote Bill Gresham of Waste Management in early June, requesting the rate increase.

Commissioners, who were asked to approve change in the form of a single-year resolution, said they were wary of being the first municipality asked to approve the higher-than-normal increase.

"Being the lead pony in this is a somewhat awkward position for us," Mayor Ken Schneier said. "That’s one point I’m hearing and two is we understand the difficulty and are sympathetic."

Schneier suggested moving forward with the requested increase while monitoring what other nearby and similar municipalities are doing when Waste Management approaches them with a rate-increase request.

"If the result of that experience for them is that the 4% cap is holding or some middle ground is the norm, then we will request that they back us off, that we renegotiate the terms of this increase," Schneier said. "That’s a request on our part."


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