Tupelo may change garbage, recycling collection

I'm a journalist focused on government, policy, politics and people.
I find what matters and bird dog it like nobody's business.

By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – After years of Waste Management picking up trash twice a week in Tupelo, it may happen half as much after July.
But recycling pickup could double from once every two weeks to once a week.
With the city’s garbage and recycling contract ending in July, City Council members have started reviewing proposals by two companies seeking the contract valued at $12 million to $14 million a year. Proposals to the city include collection at 13,214 single-family residential customers and 128 multi-unit residences.
Trash collected goes to the Three Rivers Solid Waste Disposal Authority unless otherwise directed by the city.
After receiving proposals meeting required specifications from Houston, Texas-based Waste Management and Waste Pro of Longwood, Fla., the city will decide in June which company to choose for the important city service.
The City Council also will decide whether to keep the same schedule or try something new. So far, multiple council members say they’re inclined to decrease garbage pickup and increase recycling collection.
If recycling is picked up weekly, residents could receive 96-gallon carts for the service, the same size as used now for trash pickup. However, Tupelo Chief Operating Officer Darrell Smith said residents could also choose to continue using the smaller containers currently allowed for recycling.
Council President Fred Pitts said he supports the change, which would encourage more recycling in the city.
“The more we recycle, the less we pay in fees to the landfill,” he said during a city work session this week on the new contract.
Waste Pro’s proposal included higher costs than Waste Management for collection of trash and recycling under the current schedule but a lower price for once a week pickup for trash and recycling.
While the contract for the city service may change, it’s not yet clear how this would affect prices city residents pay. Currently, residents of single-family homes pay $13.53 a month to the city, which in turn pays Waste Management $11.11 per residence for the service.
Smith said the difference between what the city pays for collection and what city residents pay goes toward sanitation cleanup, which involves picking up items such as appliances and other things that won’t fit into trash containers.
While prices charged to the city are important to council members in selecting which company to use, they said cost isn’t the only criteria they’ll factor into their decision.
Council members asked Smith to research the companies to provide information related to their background, other municipalities using their services and their experience with the service, how many employees who will work in the community and environmentally friendly initiatives.
Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington said information they receive will weigh on which company they select.
“I’d like to see who we’re dealing with,” he said.
Mike Bryan, councilman for Ward 6, said when the city made its last agreement with Waste Management in 2007, the intent was to gradually incorporate more recycling into the city.
“I’d like to see this council do the large bins (for recycling),” he said. “Lots of citizens of this city are expecting them.”
In the recent primary election held on Tuesday, Bryan was the only candidate who reported a campaign contribution from either company seeking the contract, accepting $250 from Waste Management.
When asked earlier this week by the Daily Journal if he would vote on the contract after accepting the contribution, Bryan wouldn’t say.
“Wait till it comes up,” he said. “No comment.”
robbie.ward@journalinc.com