Trash pickup refused

Published 8:43 pm Saturday, September 4, 2010

Driver to get free collection for two more months

Driver business owners will lose the free trash pickup they’ve been receiving for many years by November, and they’re not happy about it.

“They’ve done it for 30 years,” said Phyllis Murphy, owner of Harmony House Antiques in Driver. “If anything, it seems like we’d be grandfathered.”

The city’s public works department discovered during a recent restructuring of the trash pickup schedule that about eight to 10 businesses in Driver had been receiving curbside trash collection for more than 15 years. City code specifically prohibits city trash service to businesses in the city, besides those in the downtown business district. Downtown businesses pay a higher property tax rate in exchange for the service.

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Businesses elsewhere in the city must contract with a private company to haul away their refuse.

Public Works director Eric Nielsen told City Council members Wednesday that he couldn’t find anybody — either longtime city employees or the business owners themselves — who could explain how the situation materialized.

“We have a fairly rigid enforcement,” Nielsen said, even relating the story of a woman who was denied curbside pickup at her home when she converted part of it to a beauty salon.

City Council members voted to instruct public works staff to continue the pickups for 60 days and then discontinue the service.

“In other words … they had good luck for 15 years,” Councilman Jeffrey Gardy said.

The decision isn’t sitting well with the business owners it affects.

“We’re kind of a quaint little town,” Murphy said. “We want to do things to make it better and it just puts another obstacle in the way. First the [Kings Highway] bridge closed, then we had the tornado … and now they hit us with this.”

Councilman Leroy Bennett suggested the business owners could split the costs of a community trash bin.

“Who wants a Dumpster sitting on their property?” Murphy said. “We’ve got Driver Days coming up.”

The business owners were to receive letters telling them of the change and offering “limited” assistance of city staff, City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn said.