Some residents of Shelby County's unincorporated areas have taken the phrase "taking out the trash" to a whole new level.
While many residents comply with the county ordinance that requires residents to contract with a private trash collection company, some are bypassing the service fees by illegally dumping their rubbish in vacant lots and along roadsides.
County officials have proposed a trash collection and recycling service to fight illegal dumping. Residents in unincorporated areas would pay a $25 monthly fee in exchange for a new county-run trash pick-up service. The fee would be added to their monthly Memphis, Light, Gas & Water bills.
The first in a series of public meetings for the proposal took place last Thursday at the East Shelby Branch Library. About 50 people watched a PowerPoint presentation on the benefits of implementing the service for the county's unincorporated areas.
However, the majority of attendees objected to the plan due to concerns about possible rate increases over time, the limited types of trash that can be hauled, and the belief that the service would not eliminate illegal dumping.
"Why is it $25? I pay less than that right now," said Barry Clay, referring to the price he pays for his contract with an independent trash collection company. "Once we get brought into this, we're going to lose control of the price, because they can raise it at any time and we can't dispute it. [The county] should attack the offenders who are illegally dumping, not the law-abiding citizens."
Clay said he pays $67 a quarter, which is $8 less per month than the proposed county trash collection service.
The countywide trash service for those in unincorporated areas may cost from $5 to $9 more per month than what residents currently pay.
"When I go walking in the morning, I take two bags with me, and by the time I get back to the house, they're both full of trash," James Jones said at the meeting. "I would support the proposal, but the thing is, they have that problem in the city. Memphis has pickup, but people are still dumping illegally."
The county estimates about 12 percent of the 36,000 residents living in the county's unincorporated areas do not contract with a private trash service. With the county-run collection and recycling service, the county would contract with several trash companies already serving unincorporated neighborhoods. Recyclable items would also be picked up every two weeks.
"It would allow people to save recyclable material, and that would help generate less garbage going to the dump," said Steve Shular, spokesman for the Shelby County Mayor's Office. "It will also help us cut down on the number of health-department-related complaints of people throwing garbage in front of their homes and expecting the county to pick it up."
Last year, the county cleaned 390 illegal dump sites. The Shelby County Health Department answered almost 600 calls about garbage left at homes not served by a trash collection company.
If passed by the Shelby County Commission, the trash and recycling collection should take effect next spring. Public meetings will be held at Fisherville Civic Club (12017 North Macon) on September 13th, Woodstock Middle School (5885 Woodstock Club) on September 18th, Bolton High School (7323 Brunswick) on September 20th, and Northaven Elementary School (5157 Circle) on October 2nd. All meetings begin at 6 p.m.