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Photo by Ryan Lewis / City Administrator Gene Vess and Commissioner Ronnie Lancaster speak at Tuesday's meeting of the South Pittsburg City Commission.

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — A garbage fee increase has been almost inevitable in South Pittsburg for over a year, and now it's here.

City Administrator Gene Vess said he's been talking about the issue for months.

"Everybody ought to be expecting it at some point in time, so tonight is about as good a time as any to expect it," he said during Tuesday's meeting of the South Pittsburg City Commission.

He recommended the board increase the city's garbage fee from $10 per month to $17 per month for residential properties and from $16 per month to $23 per month for commercial properties through Ordinance 802.

Mayor Samantha Rector said the town has been paying $1 per household out of its general fund for almost two years to cover the remaining garbage service expenses through a private contractor.

"That's why we're in a deficit in the general fund," she said.

Officials said South Pittsburg has already spent about $6,000 this fiscal year to cover those costs, which is not a budgeted item.

There hasn't been an increase in garbage fees in South Pittsburg since 2005.

The board voted unanimously to approve the ordinance on first reading.

"We're going to go to designated trash cans for the city," Rector said.

In the near future, she said South Pittsburg will provide one 96-gallon trash can per residence or business that will be numbered and assigned to that location.

Extra cans could be purchased at city hall for $100 each once they're available.

"If your trash is not in the trash can, it's not going to get picked up," Rector said.

When asked if the town is sticking with the current garbage service provider, she said "things are changing."

"First, we're going to go to the trash cans, then the rest is going to change," Rector told those in attendance. "I promise you."

Vess said the fee increase was "step one" of a five-step process to change South Pittsburg's garbage services.

Commissioner Matt Stone asked for information about the next step.

"We already know what step two, three, four, and five is," Vess said. "It's just [that] I'm not really sure, in fairness to our current provider, that we ought to say anything yet."

City Attorney Billy Gouger said South Pittsburg has a contract in place with the current garbage pick up service.

"That contract has a notice period in it before the city could opt out of the contract," he said.

Until the issues with moving out of that contract are resolved, Gouger said it was in the board's best interest to not disclose completely what the long range plan is right now.

If things work out as officials have planned, Vess said the fee increase could appear on bills as early as December.

The board will hold a public hearing and a final reading and vote on the ordinance at its next meeting on Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. CDT.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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