Thousands of tires from city program pile up along with legal issues

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The City's tire redemption program, meant to help clean up Memphis and Shelby County, has a new mess.

About 50,000 tires have been in a lot on Florida Street since the program ended in early January. The city hired a company called Refurban, located next to where all the tires currently sit, to do the recycling.

WREG filed an open records request to see the city's contract with Refurban, but one didn't exist.

City officials explained Liberty Tire was originally hired to recycle the tires, but they backed out at the last minute. Officials said they got Refurban to do the job on very short notice.

The city said it received special permission from the State to hire Refurban without a contract, based on the emergency need. City officials said they paid Refurban $5,000 for the job.

But, according to Shelby County records, Refurban also does not own the land where the tires have been sitting for two months, and they're being sued by Shraddha Saburi Samidha, Inc., an organization that does own the land.

Joe Barton represents Refurban’s owner, and he said the lawsuit is unfair because they had an understanding.

“For them to come in and say, 'We didn’t know these tires were coming there,' is incorrect," Barton said.

Barton said Refurban knows what it will do with the tires.

“They have a plan to take them to Bristol, Tennessee, grind them up and put them in parks and use these tires instead of having them on the side of the roads in Memphis," Barton said.

The City is paying Refurban to lease the land for 90 days, and it is still within in that time period. The tires are still in the spot, and the City wants nothing to do with the impending legal battle.

"They are being stored at a location our contractor said we could put them at," Mayor Jim Strickland said. "I understand we're working on a contingency plan for how to dispose of those 50,000 tires."

According to the restraining order, Refurban can remove the tires from the lot, but they can't add to them. Barton did not say why there has been no movement.

A spokesperson for SSS said he did not want to comment until after the next hearing next week.

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