City nixes free pickup of furniture

COVINGTON -- The City Council agreed to abolish free curbside pickup of furniture and appliances at its Monday night meeting by a vote of 3-2.

The move is expected to save the city $70,000 to $100,000 annually, according to Public Works Director Billy Bouchillon.

Now, those with old televisions, sofas and other furniture and appliances will have to haul those items to the landfill themselves or pay a fee for the city to haul them.

Those who want the city to pick up their items will now come by City Hall to fill out an application and pay a minimum $50 fee. The fee could be more, depending on the size of the load.

Councilman Keith Dalton said he was concerned about elderly people and those without a vehicle who might not be able to make it to the landfill.

Bouchillon said the city will always work with people with special needs. He said it may be possible to visit various neighborhoods once a quarter with a large Dumpster where residents can drop whatever they want for free.

The vote was 3-2 in favor of amending the ordinance, with Dalton and Hawnethia Williams opposed, and Councilmen Mike Whatley and Chris Smith and Councilwoman Janet Goodman in favor. Councilwoman Ocie Franklin was absent.

"I do this reluctantly but we have to do it because we've always lost money. The county's going up on us," Goodman said, referring to increased tipping fees at the county landfill.

The city received a letter from businessmen Joe and Gene Mobley expressing concern that the change could lead people to dump furniture, appliances and other items in or near Dumpsters on commercial properties.

"Having been the owners of multiple properties in Covington for many years, we have learned the mind set of people that are looking to dump large trash," the letter states. "They are thinking, 'Where can I dump this stuff and not get caught?' and there's nothing like driving up to one of your Dumpsters and finding a three-piece living room set hanging out of it."

The Mobleys said they are concerned about their Dumpsters on Henderson Drive, where people are dropping off their garbage "as if we're the local trash drop."

"We feel the lack of free large trash pickup will create an epidemic of furniture, appliances and other unwanted items being simply left in and near the Dumpsters for the property owners to dispose of. With the change in city policy I envision us paying money to remove items that we are not the source of," the letter states.

They asked the council to consider increasing garbage collection fees to generate more revenue in lieu of eliminating curbside pickup of furniture.

"I'm not for that ... asking everybody to bear the cost of what a few people contributed to," said City Manager Steve Horton.

Mayor Kim Carter said that "in lieu of privatization, this is a no-brainer."

Although Smith noted that the free collection of furniture is one of the perks of living in the city, Carter said, "You pay for what you get. Our job is to make sure we find a way to pay for all those services."

Smith ultimately voted in favor of the change but asked for it to be revisited if it causes problems.