Residents of Houston will soon be forced to lease their garbage and recycling bins from the city.
A divided Houston City Council voted Wednesday to adopt a new monthly fee associated with its pickup service for trash and recyclables. Starting July 1, each residential household in the city will see a $1.14 fee on its monthly water bills to help cover the costs of new bins, maintenance for existing bins and personnel to provide pickup services.
The fee proposed by Mayor Sylvester Turner is being considered a “lease” by the city, which has approximately 390,000 garbage and recycling customers who use a total of 780,000 bins. Turner said the fee will generate about $5.3 million in annual revenue for the city, which is looking at ways to balance its budget, cut costs and boost revenue amidst a pandemic that has crippled the economy locally and beyond.
“I’ve said no to the garbage fee (before). I’ve said no repeatedly,” Turner said before the council’s vote. “But what do you do when you’re looking at the numbers? I don’t want to lay off employees. I don’t want services to be hurt anywhere in the city.”
The item first appeared before the council two weeks earlier and was delayed by District C council member Abbie Kamin, who represents residents of the Heights, Garden Oaks and Oak Forest, so she and the other council members could solicit feedback from their constituents. Another council member who represents area residents, Amy Peck of District A, made a successful motion last week to again delay the item so the council could more closely examine Turner’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1.
After a lengthy discussion Wednesday, which included an adopted amendment by at-large member Michael Kubosh that the fee be subject to a sunset review in four years, Turner and the 16-member council voted to approve the proposed fee. Among the six council members who voted against it were Kubosh, Peck and at-large council member Mike Knox, who argued that residents should not be charged for bins they are required to use. A spokesperson for Turner previously said city residents cannot use their own bins and still receive pickup service from the city.
Peck and other fee opponents said city residents already pay for garbage and recycling service as part of their taxes, and that adding a new fee could create increased financial burdens on residents who already are strapped on account of the pandemic.
“I just think it’s bad timing,” said District J council member Edward Pollard, who also voted against the fee.