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Legislation would exempt some from garbage bills

Some Vicksburg residents may become exempt from garbage fees under a bill before Mississippi lawmakers.

Senators passed the bill last week to give cities the ability to waive fees for people who are totally disabled or for people over 65 who are considered indigent. Under existing law, municipalities can only waive the fees for hospitals or public schools, but not for residential customers.

The bill was introduced by Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood.

“I would support that,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens. “Everybody has garbage, and if they can’t afford garbage fees, then they wouldn’t have any way to get rid of their trash.”

Vicksburg’s fee for twice weekly curbside garbage collection went up in November by $1.55 to $12.60 per month. The fee is on bills that also include water, sewer and gas charges.

The bill describes indigents as having income of no more than 60 percent of the most recent poverty guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

For a single person to qualify, the cutoff would be $5,316 per year. According to Census 2000, about 16.5 percent, or 645, of the people older than 65 in Vicksburg were listed under the poverty level.

The Census data uses different figures to determine poverty level, so not all of those people would qualify under the proposed law. Leyens said he believes the bill would apply only to a small number of Vicksburg residents.

Some people complained last year after new citywide garbage service began that the new 96-gallon garbage containers were too difficult to handle. City officials responded by making smaller 32-, 48- or 64-gallon cans available upon request. People with medical reasons can also request garbage pickup at their doors instead of curbside.

Other changes in city garbage services include eliminating the separate day pickup for yard waste which is now collected on the second day of regular service. New rules also limit the times when containers can be placed out for pickup to 6 the night before scheduled pickup.

The city has also contracted with Deer Park Fence Company of Port Gibson to build 10 enclosures for commercial garbage receptacles in order to comply with the ordinance that went into effect Jan. 1. Code enforcement officials have not begun to issue citations yet to businesses that fail to comply with the new rule, but will after the city’s enclosures are finished. Fines can be up to $1,000.