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Payments increase after garbage bill added to utilities

Published:   |   Updated: August 17, 2014 at 12:29 PM

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To streamline payment collections, Hernando County commissioners in October voted to add people’s garbage collection bills to their water and sewer statements.

The combined billing effort is helping the county’s garbage hauler, Republic Services, which had complained it wasn’t receiving payments from enough people. County figures show the company only had an 80 percent success rate.

Now payment collection is up and the operating costs to the county for taking in payments has been maintained, making the program a success for all concerned, Environmental Services Director Susan Goebel-Canning told commissioners last week.

Republic Services has seen a 16.7 percent hike in collection rates, resulting in a $480,500 annual increase in company revenue.

Also, because Republic Services no longer bills its customers, the cost of things such as printing, postage and customer service work related to handling billing inquiries and processing payments are taken out of the company’s normal operations and realized as added savings.

On the county’s end, the cost of taking over Republic’s billing duties has not resulted in extra expenses, Goebel-Canning said.

But, she added, the continued success of the program is contingent on Republic Services footing the bill for having the county handle billing, which is estimated to be about $67,000 this year.

Compliance has increased, county staffers said, because Republic customers either pay their bills or lose water and sewer service from the county.

Prior to bill combining, Republic billed about 36,500 customers. Once the county utility department took over the billing, staffers there found 2,800 more customers that Republic Services should have been billing and they were added to the mix, resulting in more company profits.

The extra accounts caught some commissioners by surprise.

“Twenty-eight hundred ... that’s a big number,” Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said.

Dukes said Republic is getting a good deal by paying the county about $70,000 annually to get back an extra $480,500.

County Commissioner Diane Rowden said the new arrangement has resulted in more efficiency and cleaner neighborhoods because Republic can pick up all customers’ trash instead of bypassing those addresses whose owners don’t pay their bills.

“We don’t get nearly the complaints about any trash problems,” Rowden said.

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