Although Pinellas County historically collected electronics and chemicals at an annual Saturday collection in Gulfport, earlier this year a solid waste representative told community group the Gulfport Neighbors it would no longer collect south of 22nd Avenue North. An email from county staff explained that Gulfport did not meet a goal of 500 participants. Gulfport Public Works Director Don Sopak tells the Gabber they first heard of these goals when the Gabber asked about them.
Because of the county’s decision, Gulfport Public Works – abetted by the Gulfport Neighbors – has stepped up. At the Saturday, May 17 “Junk in the Trunk or on a Truck,” (JITT) event, staff and volunteers at the 49th Street Gulfport Neighborhood Center collected not only almost 10 tons of bulk trash, they also collected eight pallets of unwanted electronics. The city brought the bulk waste to the Pinellas County Waste-to-Energy facility, where Gulfport paid just under $400 to dispose of it. The county will incinerate the trash and sell the energy generated back to Duke Energy.
As for the electronics, the city paid Creative Recycling to repurpose, recycle or properly dispose of the electronics. Creative Recycling charged Gulfport roughly $300 to take the unwanted televisions, VCRs and computers, according to Sopak.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s office also told the Gabber they had no knowledge of any participant goals from the county. Mayor Kriseman, along with Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson, expressed displeasure with letters to the commission.
“The greater the distance between residents and mobile collection events,” Henderson wrote, “the less likely residents are to participate due to the time expense of convenience factor.”
Kriseman addressed complaints from South Pinellas residents that the county focuses more on its northern residents.
“St. Petersburg is home to many unique, culturally rich, and historically significant neighborhoods,” Kriseman wrote in a letter to the editor in the Gabber this week.
“These neighborhoods deserve the full support of city hall,” Kriseman said in an interview earlier this week. “On behalf of residents in South Pinellas – St. Petersburg as well as Gulfport and our neighbors in the beach communities – I have serious concerns about those collections being removed,” he said.
According to representatives from both Mayor Kriseman’s office and Gulfport Public Works, the county told neither Gulfport nor St. Petersburg it intended to halt collections in south Pinellas.
The county does offer “Haz-to-Go” trailers for collections; these trailers can handle no more than 100 participants and only take place during business hours.
On February 24, the Gabber emailed Pinellas County Commissioners Norm Roche and Charlie Justice about the county’s plans to halt the collections. Roche responded within 24 hours. Roche – who, prior to his election as commissioner, worked as a public relations specialist for Pinellas County Utilities, which included Solid Waste – assured the Gabber he would look into the issue and give it “priority status” in the county system.
Justice responded on May 15 after the Gabber posted on the "Gulfport Ideas and Opinions" Facebook group that he had not responded. He sent the Gabber a text from Pinellas County Solid Waste explaining the collection events in Gulfport “were not the best use of county resources.”
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.