MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - When Memphis city leaders suggested fining homeowners $50 if they leave their trash carts at the curb beyond designated hours, reaction was fast and furious.
"I received a lot of complaints," said Councilman Worth Morgan at Tuesday's Memphis City Council meeting.
Morgan said his constituents think the city's plan to create the trash police really stinks.
"If we're going to start punishing people," Morgan said, "I don't think that it should be for behavior that's not that bad."
Memphis already has an ordinance that says your trash bin can only be at the curb from 6:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. the day of pick-up. Public Works Director Robert Knecht said his office issues warning notices to violators right now.
"It's not one of our biggest issues," he told council members, "but we do get a number of complaints from citizens that their neighbors just leave their carts at the curb. We probably get hundreds a year, maybe a thousand."
Once his department hires an "environmental enforcement squad," Knecht said $50 fines will start going out. It's a blight-fighting strategy that many Memphis residents say is straight up garbage. They took to social media to express their outrage.
Bethany Masters tweeted: "Do I get that much back every time I haul it down to the curb on trash day and it doesn't get picked up?"
A tweet by user Get Silly said, "Garbage cans are pretty far down the blight totem poll."
And Stevie Rey simply posted: "Nope. We've got bigger things to worry about."
Councilman Morgan suggested a compromise--extending the hours allowed from 5:00 p.m. the day before trash pick-up to 8:00 a.m. the day after.
"If we're going to begin enforcing and discouraging this behavior," Morgan argued, "we actually need a time frame that makes sense."
His proposal passed a council committee. No matter which version passes the full council in a few weeks, the trash police are coming to a Memphis neighborhood near you.
"If you want less clutter and less litter," said Councilman Edmund Ford Jr., "you have to tax it some shape, form, or fashion. I know some colleagues are saying the hours may be too strict. But at the same time, let's see what we can do."
"We're just trying to do a better job of keeping our city clean," Director Knecht explained to the council.
Councilman Kemp Conrad told WMC Action News 5 it's his belief the city will go after habitual offenders, the neighbors who never take their garbage carts back to the house. Knecht told the council that homeowners who receive a $50 citation, can fight the ticket in Shelby County Environmental Court.