In hopes of creating competition and lowering garbage collection rates, the Connellsville City Council will review plans on Tuesday to reduce the number of people who don’t pay their garbage bills on time or at all.
If approved, garbage customers with delinquent accounts would not only have to pay the garbage hauler, but would also face a $25 administrative fee imposed by the city.
As planned, the garbage hauler was to send notices to people with delinquent accounts on Connellsville city letterhead.
Failure to pay fees can result in a lien on the property of the person with the delinquent garbage account.
The goal of the plan is to get people to pay for their garbage.
Due to the city’s high rate of customer delinquency, County Howling has indicated that it will submit a high-value garbage collection bid to the city of Connellsville, according to city officials.
Trash accounts have an estimated delinquency rate of 20%.
Connellsville’s three-year contract with County Hauling recently expired, and the council accepted the company’s offer to extend the contract for another year at a 9% price increase.
City Councilor Bob Topper Jr. said the council accepted the offer rather than take the chance of receiving a much higher offer through competitive bidding given that fuel prices were high all summer.
I did so in the hopes that at this time next year fuel prices would come down and the arrears issue would be resolved.
The City’s first task is to determine the accuracy of the delinquent accounts list provided by County Hauling. City Councilman Carol Tiberio said she has about $250,000 in unpaid bills on her overdue list.
Mayor Greg Lincoln said the list contained “a lot of misinformation.”
“Vacant lots and abandoned land are billed, but we should not get a garbage bill because there is no garbage,” he said.
Tiberio said part of the problem was caused by County Hauling by not maintaining an accurate customer list.
In recent months, Topper has repeatedly stressed that it had not received an invoice from County Hauling until recently, after the contract came into effect three years ago.
He was paying the garbage bill without ever getting the garbage bill.
City officials learned that County Howling had sent invoices to real estate sites without naming customers. The bill was addressed to current residents only.
“When something like that comes to my house, it goes into the trash,” Tiberio said.
For weeks, Tiberio has been scouring lists to match names and addresses and make sure accounts are up to date.
Problems have arisen in many ways, she said, sometimes involving a change of owner.
According to Tiberio, some bills are sent to landlords instead of tenants, and vice versa, companies do not know who is responsible for garbage bills.
“That’s one of the ways it falls apart,” she said.
Alderman Tom Karpiak, who rents out properties to people, said it happens both ways when it comes to utility bills.
He said some landlords charge rent and have tenants pay all or part of the utility bills.
Karpiak said the rental fee includes garbage collection.
In Connellsville, more than half of the residential space is rented, so landlord and tenant responsibility is a major factor in paying for garbage collection.
This situation creates mobility issues as some tenants vacate their units unexpectedly, skipping rent and trash fees.
Karpiak said that’s why it’s important for landlords to make sure they’re getting good customers for their units.
Delinquent accounts can stem from vacant homes and plots of land, Mr. Tiberio said.
As an example, she cited the delinquent accounts of three tenants in a rental building.
“The building was bought, then emptied and then demolished, but the billing continues,” she said.
Tiberio referred to Howling County’s complaint that trash must be collected regardless of whether the account is in the area.
She said it’s good for the community from a public safety standpoint, but not for the carriers because of the loss of revenue.
But Tiberio added that it’s also bad for the community, as delinquent accounts lead to higher rates.
Lincoln said it hurts those who pay their garbage bills when some residents fail to pay.
“It’s not fair to residents paying for garbage,” Lincoln said.
“Everyone should pay their fair share. I know some people are having financial problems, but there are programs in place to help pay the utility bills.”
Several people have updated their accounts since Tiberio began investigating.
However, some have paid nothing to the garbage collector since the original contract went into effect.
As a result, some customers owed over $700 each on garbage collection.
Tiberio, Lincoln, and City Clerk Vern Ohler all say their immediate challenge is to make sure the delinquency list is accurate and match names to parcel numbers.
Oehler said that will be one of his main focuses once the 2023 budget is passed.
“I think there’s a vacant lot on that list,” said Oehler. “Some say they paid their bills. We need to know who was billed and who didn’t.”
Tiberio said sending the letter offers overdue garbage customers an opportunity to keep their accounts up to date.
“It’s not a perfect world, but maybe we can raise our standards and expectations,” she said.
Topper sees value in sending letters to people with delinquent accounts.
“I think we have to do all we can about this issue before we bid on the garbage contract,” he said. “One of the reasons he has a high rate is delinquency, and it always comes back to us.”
He said helping the carrier collect could be a way to “clean up the mess on our side with garbage.”
“If you can get your delinquency rate down from 20% to 15%, that’s a step forward,” says Topper.
He said the city was in a position to have to collect garbage.
“We can’t shut down services like other utilities, so we’re trying to get creative and find creative ways to force people’s hands,” he said. I was.
Alderman Ethan Keady said a delinquency letter is a good first step in solving the problem.
“Currently, the delinquency rate for people who are not paying is very high, hurting those who are paying,” he said.
“There’s over $250,000 in the hole, so garbage companies should charge higher.”
Keedy said lowering the delinquency rate would give the city an opportunity to lower the rate when it bids for garbage contracts next year.
Lincoln said keeping a list of delinquents followed by a letter is one way the city can legally encourage paying bills.
Mr Karpiak said he was not overly confident in his plans for delinquency notices.
“I’m not so much in favor of using the city’s financial resources to collect the city for business,” he said.
“But it’s not a city bill. It belongs to a garbage company. It’s a gray area for me.”
Karpiak said whether the letter would be sent legally, and if it worked, he would have no problem with the plan.
“They have to prove it to me,” he said.
Garbage collection, from fees to competition, delinquency and service performance, has been a major congressional agenda since the county haulage contract came into effect three years ago.
Lincoln and Keedy have frequently been vocal critics of carriers.
As a resident and owner of Keedy’s Pizzeria, Keedy sees service from two perspectives.
At a recent meeting, he complained that carriers had damaged the restaurant’s flowerbeds by shoving trash cans.
The mayor said he, his city council colleagues, Oehler and Chief Executive Sherri Primus were devastated by the endless stream of complaints from residents about Howling County services.
Competition is a major concern as the three regional haulers have been consolidated into one company since the contract began.
As such, Lincoln said reducing delinquencies is essential to making the city more attractive to carriers who might bid on contracts.
A few months ago, city, South Connellsville and Connellsville Township officials explored the possibility of bidding for contracts as large customers as a means of lowering rates.
All three municipalities have extended their waste collection contracts for one year.
Lincoln and Keedy want to consider a garbage collection plan that works for South Connellsville.
In nearby South Connellsville, city officials collect garbage bills.
Failure to pay the garbage bill will result in interruption of water service. In the case of partial payment, it must be applied to the garbage collection fee before the sewerage fee.
A 20% fee is added to the garbage collection bill to cover administrative costs, and the carrier receives one check to cover the Borough’s garbage collection service.
Lincoln said the city hopes to reach a similar deal and a “robust plan of action” to Connellsville.
“If someone doesn’t pay, they’re going to turn off the water,” the mayor said.
In such cases, City Law Enforcement Officer Tom Curry gave customers five days to restore service.
Otherwise, the structure will be deemed unfit for human habitation and residents will be forced to leave.
“It would be another way for the city to apply pressure,” Lincoln said.
Keedy said this should give the city more control and lower fees.
Lincoln said the city and its customers would benefit financially if separate billing was removed from haulers, saving administrative costs.
Keady said all options should be considered.
“My ultimate goal is for cities, boroughs and townships to form a Waste Management Authority,” he said.
It operates garbage trucks, hires staff, and processes billing.
He said carrier consolidation has left little room for competition.
“We’re still in the same boat with bad collections, bad billing and bad rates,” he said.
Keedy said the joint authority will provide management of fees and collection services.
“With authority, if you go missing at home, someone will come pick up your trash that day,” he said. “For County Hauling, it could come out in a few days.”
Keedy acknowledged that doing it in-house would require a large upfront investment, and said it was a daunting prospect for some.
“But I think it’s the best option for us,” he said.