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County rejects Bear Wise funding

Posted on January 12, 2017 by Romi White

Santa Rosa County Commissioners on Thursday voted to reject $150,000 in state funding for bear-resistant trash cans due to the high cost-share burden it would place on county resident and government.

Commissioners decided not to accept a Bear Wise grant because the awarded level would only help a small percentage of households. And those residents would still be required to pay between $40 and $100 per container.

Additionally, Santa Rosa County would have also had to provide $150,000 in matching funds.  

Commission Chairman Rob Williamson said the key issue is unsecured trash.

“I don’t know what way to correct that, but this doesn’t look like the best way. I would not put this into action.”

Commissioner Bob Cole expressed concerns that under the Bear Wise funding residents would pay to own the containers but waste haulers would be held harmless for damage occurring during trash pickup.

“What’s the State of Florida’s long-term plan for these bears? We’re getting an increased number of bears…passing the buck to our citizens and this (commission),” Cole said.

Other options researched included the potential for the state to make a bulk purchase bear-resistant containers. “That won’t be happening,” Tony Gomillion, county administrator, said Thursday.

County Engineer Roger Blaylock noted that existing solid waste franchise agreements provide for vendor-owned, bear-resistant trash containers for an extra quarterly fee of about $16.

According to Blaylock, the extra fee is assessed to offset the additional time for haulers to get out of the truck to unlatch the bear-resistant trash containers.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Bear Wise funds are generated through monies from bear hunt permit sales and “Conserve Wildlife” license plates. Grants for fiscal year 2016-2017 totaled $825,000.

Santa Rosa County had submitted one of 17 successful grant applications. Two additional applications were denied Bear Wise funds and could be reconsidered following the rejection of the money.

In order to secure the Bear Wise funding, the county last year passed an ordinance tightening restrictions on garbage collection procedures.

Per the ordinance, around 11,000 residents in unincorporated areas south and west of Eglin Air Base must retain trash until pickup day then place trash in the contain that morning, removing it afterward. Those in violation are subject to a $120 code enforcement fine, and residents using bear-resistant containers are exempt from the requirement.

For information on how to become Bear Wise, including ways to secure trash, visit myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/bear/wise/