Bring justice to wild west of trash fees

Published 12:06am Thursday, December 19, 2013

Drive out past the Natchez city limits and a regular wild, wild west of trashy freeloaders exists.

That’s no slight against county residents — most are wonderful people — but a few are committing the modern version of old west highway robbery by failing to pay their garbage collection fees.

County leaders estimate perhaps as much as $2 million in overdue garbage fees exist on the county’s books. That’s nearly half the cost of a proposed recreation complex, by comparison.

We applaud the county for its effort to collect the back fees, including a suggestion to bring in a hired gun to bring the garbage bandits to justice.

The challenge, however, is without fixing the system that caused the outrageously high amount owed, the fees could quickly build again.

County leaders want the Mississippi Legislature to pass a law allowing such back fees to be added to the property taxes, thus creating an incentive for the owner to pay up or run the risk of losing the property.

That may work, but we’re also in favor of the county exploring another option — one that might be done more quickly and without the Legislature’s approval.

If the county can contract out garbage collection services, could it not also contract out the billing management for those services?

It seems like it could.

We hope the county would consider abolishing the existing county sanitation office and work with the folks at the Adams County Water Association to create a system like the one that exists in the city limits.

In Natchez proper, if you don’t pay your combined water and garbage bill, the water gets turned off. For most people, that’s a pretty good motivator.

In exchange for its billing services, ACWA could take a small percentage — likely far less than the county currently pays to manage the sanitation department — and could use its fees to help improve water access for firefighting in the county.

That would be a perfect ending to the western saga — that bad guys get a dry taste of justice.