Final city council meeting of 2019 will debate solid waste, MLGW rate hikes

Memphis' final city council meeting of the year to focus on solid waste, MLGW rate hike

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) Tuesday is the final Memphis City Council meeting of the year. Two big decisions await council members, rate hikes on solid waste and MLGW services.

Both could end up costing you more in the new year.

“We have really good service now, and we want to maintain that,” Mayor Jim Strickland said Friday, “And I’m optimistic the council will agree.”

Strickland said last week he believes Memphis City Council members will change their votes Tuesday and greenlight a plan to hike solid waste fees. Strickland’s original proposal called for a rate increase of a little more than $7 a month.

“Something has to happen. I don’t know if it will be exactly as the mayor’s proposed, it could be some kind of a variation of that,” said Kemp Conrad, Memphis City Council Chair, “But I think we will come up with a solution.”

Strickland threatened to layoff roughly 300 sanitation workers when the council voted against his plan two weeks ago. The mayor’s administration overhauled city trash pickup in the spring with money out of the general fund to include more routine collection of oversize items.

“We approved the budget with a $15 million deficit knowing at some point we would have to come up with the funds to do that,” said Martavius Jones, Memphis City Council member.

Also teed up Tuesday for debate are water, gas, and electric rate hikes for MLGW, as part of the utility’s budget. Last year the council only funded a water rate increase despite MLGW asking for more. The utility said a consultant’s report has identified cost savings they will implement.

MLGW also has pushed for electric rate increases to modernize existing infrastructure and try to minimize outages.

If approved as presented, the gas, electric, and water rate increases could set you back $14 a month by the end of the three year implementation period.

WMC Action News 5 political analyst Michael Nelson said fee increases are tough to pass because they’re a hard sell to constituents. That’s why they’re often dealt with in the months after a municipal election. The election was held in early October.

“This is not coincidental that these issues are being resolved this week,” said Nelson, “The problem is this issue has been kicked down the road for so long that instead of raising one set of rates months ago then doing the other now when people have had time to adjust to the first one, it’s all happening at once.”

Conrad said he believes the council will settle the issues Tuesday.

“We do take it seriously. It’s why we spent so long on both of these issues,” Conrad said, “Because the last thing we want to do is take money from Memphians.”

Six members of the 13-member body will be leaving the council, with new members coming on in January. Patrice Robinson was chosen to serve as chair for 2020. Tuesday’s meeting is the final one for the current council term.

Copyright 2019 WMC. All rights reserved.