Memphis City Council considers hikes for trash pickup, MLGW rates

City Council Waste

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The City of Memphis is asking council members to green light a price hike to pick up your trash. For most customers, the increase could cost an additional $85 a year.

It’s something council members have considered for weeks. They didn’t like the initial plan the mayor’s office sent down, which actually called for a higher rate increase, so revisions were made.

“If we are going to ask for an increase it shouldn’t be for the same level of service, it should be for an improved level of service,” said Doug McGowen, City of Memphis chief operating officer.

In April, city officials and Mayor Jim Strickland announced an overhaul to the trash pickup system after the Memphis City Council approved the use of $15 million in reserves to create a solid waste division and add equipment and people to combat poor pickup service, especially large items.

City officials say they’ve improved their performance and need to hike fees to make the solid waste fund sustainable.

“We’ve proven that we’ve been able to clean up the city,” said McGowen. “311 calls are down dramatically. If you just drive around I think people would admit they feel the city is much cleaner than it was before.”

Under the latest proposal, city solid waste feeds would increase from $22.80 a month to $29.96. That means annually you’d pay $85.92 more.

Lower income senior citizens’ fees would remain unchanged at $7.50 a month.

City crews service about four-fifths of the city. The remainder in the Cordova area is serviced by a contractor.

Council members continued to debate the issue, expressing unease because they are considering solid waste hikes and MLGW rate increases Tuesday.

City Council Rate Hikes

The MLGW hikes could add $14 to your monthly bill by the end of 2023. The utility is also exploring changes to employee benefits.

MLGW leaders went before a council committee Tuesday morning seeking changes to current policy that stipulates employees and retirees must have the same health care premium split.

The utility wants to be able to stagger the premium for those hired January 2020 and beyond.

“We are trying to make investments,” said J.T. Young, MLGW CEO. "We are trying to save costs. Because we want the quality to be better for everybody.

In October, a consultant report suggested MLGW should save $30 million to $35 million by eliminating 300 to 400 jobs in the coming years. The report also suggested shuttering community offices and acknowledged the utility needed to improve its infrastructure, which is becoming unreliable.

“It is important that we find as many efficiencies as we can for the company so that we don’t charge ourselves out of business in this community,” said Patrice Robinson, Memphis City Council vice chair.

Council members voted against the utility's gas and electric rate hikes last budget cycle.

MLGW’s newest proposal for gas, electric and water rate increases would go into effect in July of 2020 and be roughly $7 a month at the end of 2020 before growing to $14 a month by 2023.

“We have a phenomenal amount of infrastructure that we need to replace,” said Robinson.

Young says council members asked the utility to look for savings, and that’s what they’ve done.

“We are responding to their request, and it’s just good business to actually make sure that we are operating as efficiently as we can,” said Young.

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