Deficit may force city to raise trash fees

Deficit may force city to raise trash fees

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - For the current $22.80 a month Memphis residents pay for trash pick-up right now, the city picks up everything you put by the curb: your garbage can, recycling cart, yard debris and excess waste.

But without a price increase, city leaders say that will change. That extra curbside trash will likely cost you extra.

Joann Gross gave Public Works Director Robert Knecht an earful Monday night about the trash situation.

"It's not just in my neighborhood," she said, "it's all over the city. I'm tired of seeing trash everywhere and tired of waiting 21 days for it to be collected."

Knecht told Gross and everyone else gathered at the Whitehaven townhall that better, faster service is going to cost more.

"We're going to have to change the way we charge customers," Knecht said, "because we're losing money."

The city's solid waste fund has operated in the red for several years.  It will be empty by 2020 without some sort of fee increase, Knecht said.

He's looking at several options to charge extra for curbside debris and yard waste. Joann said she's listening.

"It depends on how much more," she said, "and it depends on will they be committed to doing what they say they'll do once I pay more.  That's the thing."

Preliminary price increases range from $5 to $13 more a month, depending if you opt for weekly pick-up of your curbside trash or monthly.  Knecht is still crunching the numbers before he presents a plan to the Memphis City Council.

"It just depends what the tolerance is of the citizens," he said, "and what the tolerance of the city council is for a rate increase.  That's what it's going to come down to."

For Joann, it comes down to keeping Memphis clean and beautiful, and she said something has got to give.

"People don't mind paying more if you get the service," she said.  "But when you're not getting the service that you're paying for, that's a different story."

The city has far fewer garbage collectors and trucks now than in years past.  Knecht says there are about 500 sanitation workers in his department today, versus around 1000 back in the 1980's.

One of the options to improve trash pick-up is to hire more workers and buy more trucks.  But Knecht is quick to warn taxpayers that option costs money.

He intends to present a final list of trash fee options to the council this fall.

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