All need to pay for trash pickup

Published 12:09am Friday, November 8, 2013

NATCHEZ — City of Natchez leaders may soon tidy up language in a city code that could affect trash pickup for local residents and businesses.

Mayor Butch Brown and Natchez aldermen met Thursday with Natchez Water Works Superintendent David Gardner and Waste Pro USA Division Manager Doug Atkins in an effort to ensure all residences and businesses receiving city trash pickup service are paying for it.

Waste Pro, the company with which the city contracts for trash collection, recently discovered along with Natchez Water Works that many residences and businesses receiving pickup service were not paying for it.

The city’s contract is for service to 6,000 residences, but Waste Pro is picking up at 7,300 locations, Gardner said.

A $13.74 trash fee is added each month to residential water and sewer bills from Natchez Water Works.

Atkins said part of the discovery came after Waste Pro recently issued new trashcans and received calls from approximately 300 people who did not receive cans.

As it turns out, Gardner said, most of those residences were on a single water meter that served more than one location.

For example, he said, in downtown, a business and an apartment may be located in the same building, but only served by one water meter. The business and the residence would both receive trash pickup service, Gardner said, but only one bill since the city invoices for trash pickup by adding the garbage fees to the water bills.

Setting the residences up on their own meter is not a problem, Gardner said. But to eliminate it from becoming an issue again, he said, changes need to be made to the city’s solid waste code, Gardner said.

Proposed changes, Natchez Water Works attorney Jeremy Diamond said, would add dwelling unit, mobile home and apartment complex to the definition of private premises in the code.

The matter of garbage pickup for businesses, however, is more complicated, he said, because the city’s solid waste code does not address commercial garbage collection service. Despite the lack of mention in the city code  many businesses have been receiving garbage collection service through the city for years, Gardner said.

“I really don’t know how that happened, it’s just something I inherited,” he said. “It’s not like we’re doing anything against the code. There just isn’t anything in the code about picking up garbage at businesses.”

Gardner asked the mayor and aldermen for direction on how to address the matter. The city, he said, could either amend the code to address commercial businesses or it could drop the commercial customers, and Waste Pro would then handle them.

Natchez Water Works has more than 1,000 business accounts using the city’s garbage collection service, Gardner said, and the city’s contract with Waste Pro allows the company to pick up trash from businesses.

Water Works, Gardner said, has picked up 600 business accounts since Waste Pro took over collection less than a year ago.

The current city code, however, needs to be updated because it doesn’t officially Natchez because it does not address business garbage collection at all, Gardner said.

Proposed changes to the code could basically mean that businesses within the city would be required to have garbage pickup through the city, as all residences and businesses are required to have municipal water service.

Businesses could, however, show proof of a private, commercial garbage collection service, such as a Dumpster at their business, to opt out of the possible city-required service, Gardner said.

Requiring all businesses to have trash pickup through Water Works or proof of a collection service would ensure all garbage picked up on the street is being paid for by a resident or business.

The city is charged a tipping fee for the trash it produces, Atkins said. The city, he said, loses money when it is being charged for tonnage Waste Pro is picking up, but Water Works is not collecting money on.

Gardner said he is not recommending the city go one way or another on how to address business pickup. He said, however, Waste Pro completely taking over the business accounts could be a huge undertaking.

“Waste Pro would have to hire another person just to manage the invoices, and then it would also be difficult on the city because people could just put their (residential accounts) in commercial names and not pay for their garbage service,” he said.

Tying a business’ garbage pickup service to a water bill could help make sure the trash service is being paid, Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith said, because if bill is not paid, the water service would be shut off.

Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery said some businesses may be able to save money on trash pickup with service through the city. The businesses would be charged the same $13.74 fee as residences for pickup twice a week and would receive a 65-gallon trash can.

The proposed changes to the code are preliminary, City Attorney Hyde Carby said. “It’s a question of degree,” Carby said. “We’re going to have to do something, but to what extent is the question.”

The mayor asked Carby, Diamond, Gardner and Atkins to work together to come up with a plan that could address the code issues. He requested a progress report by the first week of December so aldermen could review the proposed changes, vote on the changes and implement them as soon as possible.

In the meantime, Atkins said all garbage put out on the street, either at a residence or business, is being picked up so the streets of Natchez do not look trashy.

“In good faith and in my desire to stay in business in this town, we’re going ahead and picking it up,” he said.