Who will foot the bill for costly cleanup in West Memphis?
West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon’s desire to eliminate residential backyard garbage collection and increase residential and commercial collection fees was approved with flying colors by city council members recently but the problem McClendon seems to be having now is how is he going to pay for all the garbage containers that will be provided to every residence throughout the city.
The city council approved adding an additional $1.25 to every residential customer bill beginning May 20 which will mean residents will be charged $17.75 per month compared to the $15.50 they had been paying. Plus residents will be required to take their city-provided containers to the street on collection day and must return them to their homes at the end of the day.
During a recent Public Works Committee meeting council members were provided more details about Mc-Clendon’s new garbage plan such as the containers will include a microchip and could cost almost $50 each. The electronic sensor records when the container was picked up and tipped providing sanitation department accountability to city residents.
McClendon is hoping the higher fees will pay for the containers in about 18 months but the problem he has now is where is he going to come up with the front end costs to purchases these containers that is now estimated to be almost $210,000.
McClendon had hoped that when he asked members of the Public Works Committee how he was going to come up with the “207 some thousand” they would provide him with an answer but to his surprise there was total silence.
During their haste to accommodate the mayor’s plan it now appears there are more questions than answers to what they approved.
For instance, Councilman James Pulliaum asked the mayor how much will the higher fees bring in which McClendon estimated to be in about a year and a half.
Lorraine Robinson expressed concerns now that the additional fee being imposed on every resident will go on forever even after the pay off for the new containers.
Now it seems Robinson is wanting a sunset clause included into the rate increase ordinance which McClendon seemed to agree upon.
But, Pulliaum seemed to derail that idea when he said the added costs being placed on residents will have to go to maintaining the containers and Dumpsters, something the city has never had to do because every resident owned their own containers.
Then the big issue came up when McClendon wanted to know if he should borrow the estimated $207,000 from the bank at who knows what interest rate or tap into the West Memphis Utility Department’s bank account. Bear in mind that the city’s sanitation department already is obligated to pay back some $300,000 it has already borrowed from the utility department, something the utility department was never designed to do.
Clearly frustrated, McClendon repeated his question as to how is this going to be paid and said he wanted a recommendation from members of the Public Works Committee.
Clearly to McClendon’s disappointment, he got no recommendation. The obvious suggestion to this situation should have been before any action taken on purchasing these garbage containers there should have been a meeting of the city’s top brass to work out all the details, one of which is where is the money going to come from the buy the containers. This is clearly an instance of putting the cart before the horse on the part of council members.