6-day downtown trash pickup on chopping block

Mayor wants to cut special pickup from city budget

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A plan by the mayor to save the city money could end up trashing downtown.

The mayor wants to stop six-day-a-week garbage pick up in the downtown district.

He says it could save thousand of dollars, but some businesses say if they have to pick up the full tab, it would hurt their business.

Downtown businesses have been rolling out the trash almost every day of the week, and the extra pickup has been costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Businesses already pick up some of the tab: They pay a $356 fee every year for the six-day service.

"If they did not come out regular on a daily basis, it would just pile up," downtown restaurant owner Nader Oweis said. "It would not be very good out there."

But now as part of a budget-cutting process, Mayor Alvin Brown wants to toss out the special downtown trash pickup. It's part of the new budget the City Council will begin taking up Thursday.

The service costs the city nearly $404,000 a year, but the city only collects about $45,700 in fees -- about 11 percent of the cost.

It's not a done deal, and the mayor's office is looking at alternatives and said it will try to work with restaurants and other business owners to come up with a new plan, such as using private haulers instead of the city to take away the garbage. But that could cost some businesses thousands more a year.

Phillip Vanin, who owns Jax City Cafe, said that would not be worth it.

"I would not be happy, of course," he said. "I don't want to pay 10 times the price or amount just to pick up garbage."

Others like Oweis say the majority of businesses along Bay Street are family owned. His deli, What's Good Downtown, used to be filled with customers, but now that the old courthouse is no longer open, the deli is having a tough time getting by.

Oweis said what little profits his deli makes it puts back into the businesses.

"If prices do increase, it's going to be a struggle, especially right now being as dead as Bay Street is," Oweis said.