More trash talk: More than 100 communities opposed to garbage change

Residents of more than 100 communities west of Boynton Beach trashed proposed changes to garbage collection — including a service reduction from twice a week to once a week — at their monthly meeting Wednesday and appeared to win the backing of the two county commissioners sitting in the audience.

Related: Unincorporated Palm Beach County could see one-day garbage pickup

The Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations voted in favor of a resolution opposing the change in service. The non-binding resolution serves as a recommendation to the Palm Beach County Commission.

Palm Beach County commissioners, acting as the Solid Waste Authority, will vote on whether to implement once a week garbage collection at their Aug. 29 board meeting.

More: Trash talk: Suburban PBC debates garbage, yard waste pickup

And if the associations’ action wasn’t convincing enough for Commissioners Mary Lou Berger and David Kerner, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, COBWRA officials handed each a stack of about 400 printed emails from residents.

About 385 of them were against the switch.

MORE: Palm Tran gets OK to roll out changes, but still no holiday service

“I think it’s kind of obvious that we are opposed,” said Phil Barlage, COBWRA president.

The changes would affect residents of about 286,000 properties that don’t have Dumpster-type containers.

Kerner and Berger assured the group their opinions were heard.

“We’re going to have your back,” Kerner told the residents.

Said Berger: “We hear you. We stand beside you.”

The West Boynton coalitions group had previously asked residents to send emails to their organization so the public wouldn’t flood the county commissioners’ emails. But that happened anyway.

Related: Ousted small-business owners claim racial bias in garbage hauling

In the month since the Solid Waste Authority announced the proposed changes, county commissioners have received emails almost daily from residents telling them not to vote in favor of the change.

“Living in this hot climate; the smell of garbage bins in the garage will be much worse if only collected weekly,” wrote Lewis and Barbara McCans.

Wrote Linda Meisel: “In view of the fact that Florida is so hot, I feel that pickup should remain at twice a week. In this way there is less chance of food rotting, bugs, and overall keeping homes cleaner.”

The once-a-week pickup is being proposed as part of a new garbage hauling contract that would start Oct. 1, 2019. Also being proposed: a switch from manual collection to automated/semi-automated and the haulers working five days a week instead of six, which would cut Saturday service. The contract would continue trash pickup on the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

The change is being proposed as a way to “soften” an increase in hauling rates that the SWA has seen roll across the state, said Willie Puz, SWA spokesman. If the SWA were to keep the level of service as is, rates would be higher, Puz added. The range for potential rate increases would be known once companies bid on the SWA contract.

Kerner told The Palm Beach Post he is “leaning toward” voting to keep collection the same.

Cities in Palm Beach County, including Belle Glade, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Jupiter Inlet Colony, Lake Worth, Riviera Beach, Wellington and West Palm Beach, among others, already use automated/semi-automated systems. Loxahatchee Groves and Lantana also plan to switch, too, Puz said.

But they aren’t restricted to once-a-week pickup.

The SWA presented these options to county commissioners at the July board meeting amid a discussion on new standards to increase the number of solid waste contracts awarded to firms owned by women and minorities.

But it’s the trash collection that has garnered the most spirited response from the public.

Yard waste collection could be changed as well.

SWA is proposing allowing only three cubic yards of yard waste collection per week instead of six cubic yards, a change that concerns residents in more rural communities. This proposal wasn’t discussed at the COBWRA meeting, but residents have emailed commissioners detailing their concerns.

The hauling companies said nixing Saturday pickup would allow for employees to spend more time with their family. They said they have trouble attracting workers because of the six-day work-week. And having automated and semi-automated trucks would improve safety and diversify hires because the jobs wouldn’t be as physically demanding as they are now, the haulers said.

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