There is always unfinished business when a new mayoral administration takes office.
Such is the case with the Shreveport’s garbage collection.
Throughout her four year term, former Mayor Ollie Tyler complained of the problems she inherited when taking office.
New mayor Adrian Perkins has promised to not whine about any hangover issues , but to resolve them.
Ready or not, Perkins now has garbage on his plate, so to speak.
The garbage collection problems became a “hot potato” issue in the last days of the December mayoral run-off campaign. For several days, a large number of sanitation workers called in sick or left work for personnel emergencies.
A private contractor started helping the city during the week of Dec. 3.
The city normally has 32 trucks picking up trash.
The city has had both problems for the past few months with keeping fully staffed with drivers who hold commercial drivers licenses and with regular sanitation workers. The result has been that not all trucks operate.
Needless to say, the working conditions are not ideal even under the best of circumstances.
Although sanitation worker pay was increased by the Tyler administration, the wage scale is problematic both for the city and the employees. Increased competition for drivers and workers from Bossier City’s new private contract garbage collection service has exacerbated the problem.
The city has two options.
The first is to privatize garbage/trash pickup services. The other is to increase pay for all the sanitation works.
Shreveport has a substantial investment in equipment, having purchased a new fleet of garbage truck/packers in 2016. This capital equipment inventory could limit privatization options.
Yet increasing wages for sanitation workers puts more pressure on a maxed-out city budget. Additionally, any bump in wages in this department could have a deleterious ripple effect on other city departments with large numbers of hourly employees.
In 2016, Mayor Tyler considered a $12 per household garbage collection fee. After major pushback from citizens already complaining of increased water bills to pay for the EPA mandated water/sewer reports, this proposal was pulled.
Even entertaining the thought of additional municipal fees, much less secretly whispering about them, could put on the new administration on a suicide watch. The city council, too.
Another option is for the city to increase its sales tax by a penny. This would distribute the tax burden to all who spend money in Shreveport, not just Shreveport residents. The additional revenue could also be used for police pay raises.
Like it or not, Perkins has a major mayoral challenge right out of the box.
It certainly is not the most sexy issue to deal with. How it is resolved will set the curve for future actions by the Perkins administration.
(This article was published in The Shreveport Times on Sunday, January 13, 2019)