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VOL. 127 | NO. 195 | Friday, October 5, 2012

Trash Concerns

Government garbage collection meets resistance in unincorporated county

By Bill Dries

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The idea of a county government garbage collection service for no more than $25 a month to residents in unincorporated Shelby County was dead as soon as the first of four public hearings on it was held.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has floated the idea of a garbage service for all of the areas outside any city limits in the county, including Northaven. 

(Photos: Lance Murphey)

A standing-room-only crowd of 300 in the Woodstock community was the most vocal in its opposition to the idea from Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

By the time the hearings got to the group of 50 at Bolton High School late last month, Luttrell had acknowledged he was no longer pursuing the plan. It was his answer to blight and dumping problems in the county outside Memphis and the borders of the six suburban towns and cities.

The idea was for a set of solid waste services to be offered for the unincorporated areas of Shelby County for a fee of no more than $25 a month. The services would be once a week pick-up of regular solid waste, recyclables pick-up in a separate covered container once every two weeks and weekly yard debris pick up with a limit of 10 bags a week.

With one company picking up the waste there would be fewer trucks on the roads and less of the problem of roadside trash from those trucks as well.

“It’s not something that we need to find something to do,” County Public Works Director Tom Needham told the group of 100 who attended the most recent hearing Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Northaven Elementary School. “We have plenty to take care of. But when citizens complain about an issue, we try to respond as best we can to resolve those issues.”

Needham estimated the opposition in the first three public hearings was about five for every one who favored the service. An online survey was about two to one against. And two-thirds of those responding online or in person were interested in pick up of recyclables.

There have been plenty of complaints about illegal dumping in Northaven where Needham and county leaders heard far more support than they heard at any of the other forums.

With a suburban subdivision at its core, Northaven is unlike any other part of unincorporated Shelby County. County leaders are exploring the idea of a garbage pick-up service by fee for areas where residents want it.

But Northaven is unlike the other unincorporated communities in its geography. The core of the community is a subdivision where homes are closer together. It is a traditional late 20th century suburban subdivision in a larger setting that becomes more rural further from its center.

It also has a series of dead-end roads that are a magnet for dumping tires, refrigerators and household waste.

Add a problem with dilapidated, foreclosed and vacant homes just feet from occupied well-tended homes and there is considerable sentiment for a county service.

“Our concern is different than in other areas,” said Regina Love, president of the Northaven Community Association. “I am willing to pay that couple of more dollars. Our concern in Northaven may not be the concern of Shelby Forest or Woodstock or some of the other different communities. I can look out my back door into a vacant house right behind me and I can see where all the neighbors that don’t have trash service dump all of their trash in the backyard. That’s here in Northaven.”

There was some dissent at the Northaven meeting, but not nearly as much as at the other sessions.

“We all need trash service,” said Earl Reynolds who owns several residential properties in Northaven, and has paid for a dumpster in the past. “I just don’t like being forced.”

“I’ve paid for pick up,” another woman who has lived in Northaven for 41 years countered. “Why does my neighbor not have to pay for it?”

The county administration may pursue a plan to coordinate such a service in communities that indicate they want it.

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