The Chattanooga Department of Public Works will provide a single collection of curbside recycling on an emergency basis, beginning Monday.
After suspending curbside recycling pickup in July due to a shortage of qualified drivers, the city will offer one-time pickups each weekday next week.
Residents must place both the garbage and recycling carts at the collection point before 7 a.m. on their normal collection day to ensure pickup.
According to a news release from the mayor's office Tuesday, the measure is a "one-time emergency effort to collect residents' recycling that accumulated during the period that regularly scheduled curbside recycling was suspended."
"Due to operator shortages, at this time the city is unable to collect single-stream curbside recycling on a regular schedule; the city of Chattanooga has suspended regular curbside recycling collection and will resume as soon as practicable during the month of October," the release said. "If you or anyone you know is interested in becoming a city of Chattanooga truck driver, please visit the city of Chattanooga job openings page."
Spokesperson Mary Beth Ikard told the Times Free Press that two qualified drivers had been hired out of the two-week job posting and more applicants are being interviewed.
"Service just paused on July 30, and the positions were posted for two weeks. City staff then had to comb through applications to ensure they meet the qualifications, and they're now in the process of interviewing drivers," Ikard said by email Tuesday. "It's only been 30 days, and it just takes a little runway to move through a hiring process, even one that has a sense of urgency to it!"
The city still needs to hire five more drivers to resume service and fill the remaining vacancies.
According to Mayor Tim Kelly, the driver shortage is one of many potential fallouts from low pay for public works and other city employees.
"I want to be crystal clear, however, about how we found ourselves in this situation. Currently, our starting pay for the equipment operators that drive our recycling trucks is right around $31,000, which is far below the starting salary of many similar positions that require a commercial driver's license," Kelly said at the beginning of August. "Even with our good benefits package here at the city, that clearly is not enough to attract qualified drivers in a competitive economy."
Kelly's first proposed budget includes $30 million for pay increases — including a more than 40% increase for collection drivers — and is set to be voted on by the city council next week.
In the interim, residents may dispose of their presorted recyclables at any of the five collection centers located at:
— 5955 Brainerd Road
— 1250 E. 3rd St.
— 3189 Cummings Highway
— 8004 Batters Place Road
— 4504 N. Access Road
Refuse collection centers and recycling collection centers will be closed Monday for Labor Day. They will reopen for business Tuesday.