MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - An old problem is rearing its ugly head in Memphis. Residents in Cordova said they are tired of talking trash.
"One of my friends came over earlier, and before she came I said listen, let me apologize about the neighborhood especially with our trash," said Terri Davis.
Terri Davis told WMC Action News 5's Kendall Downing that she is frustrated her neighborhood off Dexter Road is littered with litter. Davis said the trash has not been hauled off for weeks, and they've dealt with delays for months.
“I hate to say it’s an embarrassment, but it’s been sitting out there for two weeks,” she said. “It starts to smell. It’s very frustrating. We pay to have the pickup, but it’s just not happening.”
The city contracts out trash pickup in Cordova and Hickory Hill. The city said contractor Waste Pro has fallen behind.
Officials told council members Tuesday they've withheld payments to Waste Pro and even fined them.
“We are in the middle of a transition from unacceptable service to getting back to acceptable service,” said Doug McGowen, the city’s Chief Operating Officer. “We are exercising emergency contracts in order to keep up at this point.”
If this sounds familiar, it's because it all happened before. In the summer of 2018, the city fired contractor Inland Waste over trash pickup issues.
City officials created a new solid waste division and promised Memphis residents overall trash pickup both inside and outside of the cart would improve.
In late 2019, city officials hiked solid waste fees, with the approval of the Memphis City Council.
"I'm willing to pay more if we get service, but the fact we are paying more and getting worse service," said Davis.
Wednesday morning the city apologized for trash delays on Twitter, writing as more people are at home during the pandemic, trash volume increased by 30 percent.
The city said it's hired in extra help to assist city crews and contract crews and asked residents for patience.
"The city will take all necessary measures to ensure that you are provided with the level of service you pay for and deserve," said the post.
A city spokesperson told WMC Action News 5 on Wednesday that the city is looking at options with respect to their Waste Pro contract. The spokesperson said they know the situation is unacceptable, and they are working to find a solution.
Waste Pro President Sean Jennings released the following statement Thursday:
“Like most cities and counties, we are experiencing dramatically higher volumes of residential waste, bulk waste and yard waste during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our frontline drivers and helpers are on the streets every day (including curfew hours) as we manage collections in the safest and most efficient way for our communities and our employees.
Our Memphis Division is in contact with the City’s solid waste leadership daily to review and update operational needs. Operationally, Waste Pro has made adjustments to move more equipment on the household trash routes in an effort to meet the increased demand. We are also pulling resources (ten additional trucks and drivers/helpers) from other markets to support this temporary situation. Additionally, we are working 6 days a week to keep up.
Delays are to be expected as the trucks fill up much faster than usual causing more travel time to the collection facilities to dump and return to continue routes. Specifically, a comparison from April 2019 to April 2020 shows residential waste, recycle, yard waste, bulky tons are up 35.4% and landfill trips up 33.26%. We were honored to be selected to serve the City when selected for a emergency service contract in 2019. At that time (and in our bid proposal) we operated 27 trucks and today operate 27 trucks, however it is clear that the almost one third waste increase is due to the pandemic.
We apologize for any inconvenience to residents and are proud to service the City of Memphis. We ask for patience until we can get caught up with the increased waste volumes.”