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Strickland announces trash service improvements
Posted on 07/20/2018

Mayor Jim Strickland today announced a multi-pronged plan to improve solid waste collection service across Memphis, part of an ongoing series of “fix-it” accomplishments since becoming mayor in 2016.

“When I was sworn in as mayor, I promised to apply fresh eyes to old problems of City government — and solid waste collection service that didn’t meet citizens’ expectations was definitely one of those challenges,” Mayor Strickland said. “We’ve fixed 911 response time, we’ve fixed Memphis Animal Services, we’ve fixed City Pre-K funding, and now we’re fixing solid waste collection.”

The Strickland “fix-it” plan for solid waste includes:

  • Ramping up solid waste staffing and rebuilding the equipment fleet. Due to a cost-cutting measure years ago, some 76 solid waste positions were unfilled and more than two dozen pieces of equipment went unreplaced. Job ads for most of the unfilled positions were posted recently, orders have been made for the equipment and plans have been made to lease equipment until those orders are filled. Once this comes together, likely by October, the City will have the necessary staffing and equipment to pick up garbage outside the cart — yard waste, mostly — every other week without having to notify 311. Currently, the City’s service agreement is to pick up that outside-the-cart waste within 21 days after a call to 311.

  • Ending the City’s contract with Inland Waste. Only about four-fifths of the city is serviced by City crews. One-fifth of the city, including Cordova and Hickory Hill, is serviced by a contractor, Inland Waste. Four years ago, when the City bid out its contact, Inland won it — but has since underperformed. Large-scale backlogs have occurred as a result. Though the Inland contract runs through June 2019, Mayor Strickland informed Inland Thursday that he was invoking a clause that allows the City to end the contract within 30 days. The City has given Waste Pro, a new contractor, notice to proceed when the Inland contract has ended. Inland is contractually required to continue service for the next 30 days.

  • Reinstating the Division of Solid Waste, a division that existed for years until it was folded under the Division of Public Works. Solid Waste is a 500-plus employee operation of Public Works, which has 1,300-plus employees and a wide range of responsibilities. Yet, Solid Waste impacts close to 200,000 households weekly and accounts for three out of every four calls to 311. Reinstating the Division of Solid Waste will allow its leadership to focus every single day on improving services, along with allowing Public Works to increase its focus on other areas where it delivers services.

Solid Waste service is not paid for by tax dollars; it is paid for by a $22.80 per household fee each month. Strickland’s proposal calls for that rate to remain the same. Strickland will propose to the City Council transfers ranging from $6 to $15 million from general fund reserves to pay for the plan. The City’s current reserves are roughly $90 million.

“We may well have to raise rates in the future, but we want a year or so of seeing how our new model works and exactly what it costs, plus we also want to charge our new Division of Solid Waste leadership with finding more efficiencies that we may not have identified just yet,” Mayor Strickland said. “I didn’t feel it was right to ask citizens to pay more when we haven’t yet tried to identify every efficiency possible in our system.”

Mayor Strickland asked citizens for patience during the transition, particularly in areas serviced by Inland and the new contractor.

By October, when the new protocols and staffing are set to be in place, the City will communicate a system for households to know which weeks are optimal to set out items like yard waste for collection.

In addition to the transfer from general fund reserves, the Council will also be asked to approve the creation of the new division.

“I know it’s easy to view this as just a piece of process, but I believe fixing what’s broken in our city goes to serve our greater vision,” Mayor Strickland said. “We are committed at City government to improving core City services, which will enable even more momentum in our city. We must continue to lay this foundation of improved services, increased public safety, and policies that focus on growth in our core and our neighborhoods for us to realize the Memphis we all want.”

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