Knoxville City Council Saves $2 Million on New Garbage Contract

If you’re tired of Knoxville’s system of hauling four metal garbage cans to your curb week after week, the City Council has come to your rescue. The Council approved a new solid waste management contract at their latest meeting that’s going to save the city $2 million and save its homeowners three garbage cans’ worth of inconvenience.

The Knoxville City Council has approved a new solid waste management contract that could save the city nearly $2 million a year for the next seven years and take some of the pain out of garbage day for Knoxville homeowners.

The vote was unanimous apart from an abstention by Councilman Marshall Stair, whose law firm has represented Waste Connections of Tennessee, Inc.

Waste Connections was the winner out of four bidders for Knoxville’s solid waste needs, with a $2.9 million bid. That’s down from the $4.9 million current contract Waste Connections has held with the city for over a decade.

Why the drop in price?

According to Public Works Director Chad Weth, new garbage carts will be the star of the show.

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Public works director Chad Weth was present at Tuesday’s meeting to answer any questions the council might have about the waste contract.

At a meeting in September, the council voted to set aside the $2.9 million to purchase 60,000 new garbage receptacles. Knoxville residents will now be permitted one 95-gallon garbage carts to replace the four 32-gallon cans currently allowed.

Weth says this will save the city money in work time. A  semi-automated machine will dump waste out of the carts and into trucks, instead of individual workers hauling bags out of cans.

“It allows a more modern look, and that’s where the cost savings come from with the new haul-in contract.”

But the new contract will provide benefits for citizens as well.

“A lot of times people put garbage down in there, and it gets blown over, or an animal gets in it. These carts are standardized carts; they won’t allow that to happen,” Weth says.

Weth also mentioned the benefits of garbage not getting wet when it rains, and less litter from cans blowing over.

Finnbarr Saunders brought up concerns before the vote about the size of the cart and “perceived difficulty in moving it around.”

Weth assured the council that any person who has difficulty because of age or physical ability can apply for backdoor garbage service, which is free. Those interested can contact Knoxville’s 3-1-1 call center to apply or ask any questions about changes to solid waste services.  

The new contract is worth $3.8 million total and will take effect on January 1.

For an audio version of this web story, listen below:

Diversity Panel Speaks to Importance of LGBT Visibility on Campus

During a talk about increasing inclusion for all kinds of people in the Knoxville and University of Tennessee communities, LGBT advocate Shannon Herron expressed concerns about UT’s current climate.img_4470

A row of rainbow flags is flying outside of University of Tennessee’s College of Communication and Information in celebration of its annual Diversity & Inclusion week. Meanwhile, across campus, the UT Pride Center is fighting to keep their flags flying and their visibility on campus intact.

This Tuesday was “The Big Orange Sphere,” dedicated to inclusion within the UT community. The morning session panel was “Profiles in Courage,” showcasing community members who have forged paths in Knoxville for marginalized groups.

One of the panelists was Shannon Herron, CEO of All Out Knoxville.

Herron is an advocate for LGBT inclusion and visibility in Knoxville and an employee of the campus Center for Student Engagement. While a graduate student at UT, he started All Out Knoxville, an organization dedicated to connecting LGBT people in the area.

“My mission was to show people that you can be LGBT, and you can live in Knoxville, and that you can be happy here.”.

That organization is Knoxville wide, but recent events have called into question if the LGBT community on UT’s campus feels happy here. The Pride Center lost all funding over the summer after the Office of Diversity was defunded by the state. Vandalisms and an assault have occurred in the months since.

The latest hurdle for LGBT inclusion is a request by the administration to take down the flags flying out of the Pride Center windows. The administration cites a flag policy, but it’s been perceived as an attack on visibility.

Herron stressed the importance of visibility during the panel, echoing the sentiments of LGBT people who are still UT students. He agreed that recent events have hurt progress on campus.

“When I was in school, I did feel comfortable and safe here, and I do think that has stepped back.”

Herron’s original idea when founding All Out Knox was to provide a space for people who had left UT, since he felt UT provided them support while at school. Now that campus climate has changed, the organization might be changing as well.

“Going forward, I think a lot of our mission and focus will be on the students and how can we support them while they’re in school,” he says. “That community and their students are hurting right now, and I think we need to do everything that we can to support them.”

But a sense of belonging in the “Big Orange Sphere” for all LGBT Knoxville residents remains one of Herron’s top priorities.

“If everyone here at UT who’s LGBT graduates and moves away, who’s going to be here for the next generation of LGBT students?”

img_4466A full room of students listening to panelists share stories of their efforts to increase campus and community diversity.
img_4468The group behind the event poses for a photo op with the panelists. Shannon Herron is pictured second from the right.

City Council reviews parking appeal for new business (story for print)

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A debate over parking agreements raised questions about the use of old commercial properties in Knoxville that lack sufficient parking space.

The council voted 7-1 to deny an appeal by Lockett Road homeowner Maha Ayesh. Ms. Ayesh was appealing a unanimous decision by the Board of Zoning Appeals to allow Abridged Beer Company owner Jesse Bowers to amend the required number of parking spaces at his new restaurant from 43 to zero.

“The proposed establishment is described as a brewery and restaurant. I’m going to refer to it as bar, because that’s what I see it as, is a bar,” Ms. Ayesh said.

Neighbors voiced concerns about reckless driving, noise, and patrons parking on the street in front of their homes.

“It can’t be injurious to the neighborhood. We’re very concerned that it will be injurious.”

“I know I’m going to have people come down through my yard, maybe some of them will park in my yard,” said longtime resident Gene Herrill.

Mr. Bowers has reached an alternative parking agreement with Erin Presbyterian Church to allow restaurant goers to use their lot, a plan that offers little comfort to Lockett road residents. Neighbors noted that the church hosts regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and the restaurant will have hours on Sunday evenings.

The council noted the lack of other options; every establishment allowed in the general commercial zone requires parking that doesn’t exist at this property.

“The issue is really the parking, and it sounds like the opposition is really based on the use. There’s no use of this property without some type of variance,” said Councilman Marshall Stair.

The appeal was denied, and Abridged Beer Company will be allowed to continue its plans.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Reem Abdelrazek, who was there to support her neighbor’s appeal. “I feel like we were blindsided.”