County staff members will study the possibility of creating a special tax district to pay for government-negotiated, government-administered trash pickup contracts.
Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling), who proposed the program, said it could help people who today are on their own to hire trash pickup companies.
“The majority of the homeowners in the Sterling Park area are individual,” Saines said. “There’s no HOA like a Cascades, or a Countryside, or Ashburn Village, Brambleton, et cetera—so everybody’s on their own for trash service.”
And based on the complaints his office has received, he said, that has made both the quality and cost of that service unpredictable and spotty. He said neighbors living next door to each other can sometimes pay drastically different rates for trash pickup—and negotiating individually puts people at a disadvantage.
“We do have proof that if you’re in an HOA with numbers, your rate is definitely going to be lower than going and talking to a trash company by yourself individually,” Saines said. A focus group conducted by his office found people paying individually averaged $34 a month for trash pickup, while HOA members paid on average $18 per month.
And he said the sanitary district could be modeled on programs already in Loudoun.
“The idea is to kind of marry it with the parking permit district, where it’s being citizen-led,” Saines said. “You can opt into it, you can opt out. If the citizens want it, they’ll have a petition, bring it to us, and then we’ll go from there.”
As proposed, starting a sanitary district would require a petition from at least 55 percent of the residents of the area, then a public hearing and vote by the Board of Supervisors. And Saines said it would be entirely funded by the people in that district.
Other supervisors supported looking into the program, but voiced some skepticism—especially around cost, which they said would be unpredictable at first.
“You could build those administrative costs into it, but how you predict those, we have no idea,” said Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). “Because we have no idea right now how big the base would be.”
“This could be a very large program,” agreed Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “You’re talking about the whole county. It’s not just Sterling Park. There’s a lot of communities without an HOA, and then there are communities with HOAs that could simply decide not to provide it as a service and let the county deal with it as a sanitary service district issue, so you could potentially end up with a lot more than you bargained for.”
Saines said those are all the kinds of questions he hopes to get answered. Supervisors approved his request 8-0-1, with Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) absent. County staff members will report back to the county finance committee at an unspecified future date.