County considers sending customers with trashiest bills to court

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, May 30, 2012

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors is considering taking county garbage customers with unusually large sanitation bills to court.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus brought up the idea at a meeting of the supervisors Tuesday, saying that Pike County has initiated a program of taking sanitation customers with unpaid bills to court and getting a judgment against the customer.

Lazarus suggested taking 10 or 20 customers with the highest bills and using them as test subjects to see if taking them to court could be an effective means of collecting the bills owed.

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Sanitation bills are $13 a month, and in April Sanitation Department Head Sue Clark said some county customers have bills that go back years, including one in excess of $3,000.

The problem, Board Attorney Scott Slover said, is that sanitation bills don’t work like other services.

“You don’t pay your car note they collect your car, you don’t pay your electricity note, they turn off your electricity, but you don’t pay your garbage bill — we can’t not collect garbage,” Slover said.

President Darryl Grennell said not collecting household garbage also opens up the possibility that residents will start dumping it themselves.

Slover said the county currently tries withholding vehicle tags or tacking on the sanitation fees to the overdue customer’s ad valorem tax bill with some effect, but it doesn’t always work.

“The downside is you are already getting them to pay one bill, and you are tacking on another bill, and that may keep them from paying the one bill they are going to pay,” Slover said.

Lazarus said he feels the system of withholding vehicle tags is counterproductive.

“They will go and get a tag in another person’s name or go across the river to get a tag, and we end up losing the sanitation money and the tag money,” he said.

“We have to supplement that money somewhere, and that ends up coming up from the people who are paying their taxes.”

County Administrator Joe Murray said the county needs to take customers to court for legal protection when it comes to county audits.

“Determining that liability through a legal judgment and having that judgment lodged at the courthouse, that secures our liability in that regard,” he said.

The supervisors agreed to have Murray study the system other counties are using and see if it can be implemented in Adams County.

Also during the meeting, the supervisors opened bids for the county waste disposal contract from three bidders, Triad Disposal, Waste Management of Mississippi and Riverbend Environmental Services.

The supervisors took the bids under advisement. They will meet again at 2 p.m. today to award the winning bid.

The waste contract expires June 1.