Trash collection now will be terminated for Crestwood citizens with unpaid bills

City still $10,000 in the hole on delinquent trash accounts

By BURKE WASSON

Crestwood residents with delinquent trash bills now will have waste collection with Veolia Environmental Services terminated.

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen recently voted 7-0 to amend the city’s contract with Veolia. Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel was absent.

The amendment eliminates a provision that required the city to pay for trash-collection accounts that were delinquent for more than 45 days. That section originally was included in the city’s contract with Veolia to ensure that all trash in the city was being collected despite unpaid bills.

While aldermen have decided to transfer the billing and collection of those unpaid accounts to Veolia to save money for the city, city officials still are considering what measures to take after accounts have been delinquent more than 60 days.

Director of Public Services Jim Eckrich said unpaid bills in the city have grown as much as $40,000 and that city officials had collected roughly $31,000 of that to leave a current total from $9,000 to $10,000 in delinquent trash bills.

Eckrich estimates that currently there are roughly 150 delinquent trash accounts in the city.

How the city handles the collection of those accounts delinquent after 60 days is still being considered as Eckrich told aldermen he expects to present a proposal in the near future.

“We would have to look at it one of two ways,” Eckrich said. “Number one, citing the people at 45 days for not paying their trash bill and essentially not establishing solid-waste service …

“Or we come up with something where once a week where we’re contracting with somebody to come through and pick things up. But at that point, the city would be directly incurring the bill, the city would be directly incurring the expense and we’d have a more reasonable means of tracking this cost and getting back to the resident with some sort of stiff penalty for their non-compliance.”

“Is it possible for the city to take a lien on their property?” Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder asked.

“In that case, I believe it would,” Eckrich said.

“Is that something we would consider putting in here?” Nieder said. “Because I guess it doesn’t have anything to do with the contract itself.”

“I think if this contract modification were approved, I think that’s something we would have to administratively decide how we’re going to make that work and move forward with that whether we want to try with the citing at 45 days or decide exactly which way you want to approach that,” Eckrich said.

Under the newly amended contract approved June 26, Veolia will notify residents with delinquent accounts after 30 days.

Should accounts become delinquent for 30 days, Veolia will notify residents with such accounts. If accounts are delinquent after 45 days, Veolia will notify the residents and the city, which will also notify such residents. And any accounts delinquent after 60 days can be terminated by Veolia.

In considering the options city officials have after an account is delinquent after 60 days, Ward 1 Alderman Mac McGee said he would be in favor of “severe” penalties and possible condemnation of property.

“You know if you spent time notifying somebody at 45 days and then at the end of 60 days, they haven’t did anything, I think those type of people, you’ve got to deal with them severely,” McGee said. “Maybe condemn their property, can’t live there. I mean, you know, after you give them that much leeway, I don’t know if they need anymore. I don’t care if it’s my own brother. You should, we should do something severely. Because we know the city, we don’t have the money to pay somebody to go down and sit here and put an amendment to it that we’re going to hire John Doe and his truck to come out and pick up.

“We’d have to pay for that. So just my last statement is after 60 days, you know, you turn the big dogs on them.”

As for the city’s outstanding debt to pay Veolia for already-delinquent trash bills, Eckrich said the city is still responsible but has a variety of options.

“That additional $9,000 or $10,000 … that’s still our debt,” Eckrich said. “I think what we have to do is look at the outstanding accounts and make a determination.

“Some of these people have moved. Some of them, for a variety of reasons, we can’t collect on. Maybe some we can’t collect on, maybe we take those to the municipal-court system. But I think the majority of this debt, we’re going after.”

City Administrator Frank Myers added that the city’s remaining debt on already-delinquent accounts is an extra strain on a budget that is already tight.

“We are still $10,000 in the hole,” Myers said. “Mr. Eckrich has been successful in negotiating with this company to take over the role of dealing with these delinquent accounts so the city does not continue to go into the red. And the amendments to this agreement … really transfer that responsibility to the trash hauler. I certainly want to commend Mr. Eckrich for his efforts not only in saving the city of the administrative burden of dealing with that, but also a growing liability we will have to deal with adversely impacting our budget.”

Eckrich said the city’s responsibility to deal with unpaid accounts in the original Veolia contract approved in January has put a tremendous burden on himself and city staff and that the new approach should more efficiently deal with delinquent trash bills.

“In my four-and-a-half years of being director, I’ve never been so excited to take something to the board,” Eckrich said. “… The way this is right now is the worst contract … Residents who pay later are confused whether they pay the city or pay Veolia. Sometimes, they pay Veolia and they pay the city. Then they’re credited. I mean, there are just numerous … This has become so burdensome that I can’t even delegate this thing. It’s so complicated, I can’t even delegate to anybody on my staff. I handle all this myself because I can understand what the problems are.”

Ironically, Eckrich said the original contract that has ultimately burdened city staff and confused residents was drawn up to reduce residents’ trash rates.

He said the city’s willingness to handle unpaid accounts persuaded Veolia to have lower rates.

“We tried, and I think we made an ad-mirable effort to try to come up with something outside the box,” Eckrich said. “And this kept costs down for residents. It would have been more. If we were to pass some kind of provision in there, even what we’re moving to, where we say: ‘OK, the hauler can stop service,’ this contract would have cost us more.”