by Toby Sells
Dumpsters in Downtown alleys and on Downtown sidewalks became illegal at the beginning of November and even though businesses there knew the change in policy was coming, many did nothing to prepare for it.
Each dumpster was to come with a fine of $500 for each month they remained. But those fines were reduced by a Memphis City Council committee Tuesday to $200. It is expected that council members, city staff and Downtown merchants will work together to devise a more-permanent solution to what could become a stinking, rodent-infested problem.
If Downtown merchants, especially restaurants, have to get rid of their dumpsters, city leaders said Tuesday they would pile their trash in alleys between buildings or other out of the way places, which will create health hazards.
A proposal from council member Lee Harris would have used $300,000 in city funds to build six concrete pads for trash compactors, which would have been built by private companies and the merchants they serve. But the proposal died in committee as members the money would have had to come from city reserves and go to private entities.
“We just don’t have the money,” said council member Jim Strickland. “(Tennessee State Comptroller Justin Wilson) is already upset at us about not having enough money in reserves. We don’t have a money tree on Mud Island that we can just pull from.”
Harris said he was more interested in protecting Downtown stakeholders than in spending reserve funds. Jerome Rubin, former council member and vice president of operation for the Downtown Memphis Commission, said the $300,000 investment was vital to protect health concerns and that the funds could be recouped by the city through a new fee on Downtown businesses and residents.
The council will vote on building the compactor pads in its meeting Tuesday afternoon.