County steps up to collect past fees for garbage

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A third transfer of money to Warren County’s garbage fund this fiscal year was accompanied Monday by acceptance of a collections agency to go after delinquent fees.

Supervisors OK’d a $8,348.93 loan from the general fund to cover more shortfalls in the pool of money set aside to hold $1.25-per-customer surcharges that keep the county compliant with state-mandated rubbish disposal laws. The loan pushes to $67,302.30 the amount transferred since the board adopted the 2008-09 budget.

The amount reflected discrepancies between customer lists submitted recently by Waste Management and funds actually on hand, County Administrator John Smith said. Waste Management is the largest of three corporate providers of services to homes and commercial properties outside Vicksburg. Three individual haulers also operate beyond the city limits.

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The bills sent to customers include the surcharge that collectors can, in turn, tap to cover unpaid bills.

Warren County does not operate waste collection or disposal services, but is required to account for and monitor operations of private firms that do.

To assist with collections, in January supervisors replaced the firm previously hired to collect debts to the county with a new agency — with the specific focus on garbage and justice court fines. A contract with Natchez-based Receivable Solutions Specialists Inc. was added to board minutes Monday. Fees totaling 25 percent above a current balance will be applied for those found living inside Mississippi and 50 percent for those living out-of-state.

The push to hire a collection agency began when gaps left by customers who had moved without notifying their garbage hauler or the county outpaced collections by more than 2-to-1.

For the past year, the Environmental Office has reviewed its database of known garbage accounts to align with the county’s addressing system — an effort to match actual structures with its actual payment status. In recent weeks, county officials have declined an estimate on the database, thought to reflect less than half of the total nonmunicipal households when the review ramped up in 2008.

However, Environmental Officer Kelly Worthy has said about $4,000 has been collected directly from about 850 customers who received letters in November announcing the imminent turnover of names to the new collection agency. Calls to his office inquiring about specific situations have increased, sometimes reaching 100 per day, Worthy said.

A bill pending in the Mississippi Legislature could add more teeth to collection of garbage fees statewide.

Senate Bill 2666 would allow counties to levy garbage fees as a special assessment against property taxes. The bill would drop a requirement in place that a property owner be a non-resident of the county in order for boards of supervisors to do that. The bill has passed committees in both chambers and is before the Senate for concurrence.

A second interfund loan approved by the board Monday sent $1,702.01 from the general fund to the drug court fund to cover shortfalls in the program’s state funding.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at