Trash troubles: Council passes $5M plan to remedy pickup problems

HOUSTON – The Houston City Council approved a plan Wednesday to relieve the garbage and recycling pickup backlog caused by failing equipment.

Mayor Sylvester Turner put forward the $5 million stop-gap measure that creates a partnership with Texas Pride Disposal and rents about 50 trucks to help supplement 16-year-old equipment that is breaking down.

“In January, we approved the purchase of 69 pieces of equipment, and that equipment is coming in, in August,” Turner said.

Turner said Texas Pride Disposal will take over about 10 recycling sites across the city, which will free up city crews and hardware to be redeployed to other areas.

“As we wait on additional equipment to come in, these items before you will help to bridge and supplement and work to get us back on a time schedule,” Turner said.

Turner said a shortage of drivers is also causing a problem. He said drivers from the Public Works Department who have commercial driver’s licenses are being used to fill the driver vacancies at the Solid Waste Department.

Councilman Robert Gallegos, of District I, questioned the use of the money for a temporary measure instead of using it to buy even more equipment, especially in light of the $100 million firefighter pay parity measure approved by voters in November.

“With Prop B, I think we have to really think how we’re going to be spending this money,” Gallegos said. “It just doesn’t make sense to spend over $5 million for an expensive band-aid.”

Ultimately, the measure for the Texas Pride Disposal partnership passed with only Gallegos voting against it. The plan to rent equipment passed with five council members voting against it.