Trash pickup only once a week?

The Tampa City Council is considering the idea, but the mayor is holding her nose.

By Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer
Published February 22, 2008

TAMPA - Looking for ways to cut costs, City Council member John Dingfelder has suggested picking up garbage once instead of twice a week.

"It's worth exploring," he said at Thursday's council meeting. "When we're facing all these budget issues, we can't leave any stone unturned."

Dingfelder said he wants the solid waste department to report in six weeks on how much money would be saved.

He brought the idea up as an alternative to increasing garbage collection rates, which Mayor Pam Iorio proposed earlier this month. She wants to raise the rate by $1.58 a month, which would generate an additional $3.2-million a year. Iorio said she would use the added revenue to pay employees in the clean city division, who are responsible for such work as tidying medians.

Preliminary figures show that the city needs to cut about $16.8-million from next year's budget to accommodate reduced property tax revenue.

Iorio said it's not safe to assume that rolling back the frequency of garbage collection would save that much.

"It's the same amount of garbage that has to be picked up," she said. "It is a different distribution of work, but it still is relatively the same amount of work."

Plus, she said, twice-a-week pickup keeps the city clean. Going to once a week might mean that residents would need extra garbage cans or that full bins would sit longer in the heat.

"It's unsightly. You have odors," she said.

Varghese Jacob, interim director of the solid waste department, said few cities in warmer climates opt for once-a-week pickup. He said, "There are some savings. But is it worth having a smelly, bad situation to deal with?"

But Dingfelder's fellow council members say they like his idea.

Council member Mary Mulhern said that when she lived in Chicago, she got by with once-a-week garbage collection.

"It seems like a lot to be picking up twice a week," she said.

Council member Linda Saul-Sena said that not only would once-a-week garbage collection save money, but it would be better for the environment by keeping trucks off the road and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.