In its last meeting before today’s General Election, Okitbbeha County Supervisors discussed potential changes to the county's waste services policy that would make landowners, rather than renters, responsible for collection fees.
Board President Orlando Trainer, District 2's supervisor, said the county was made aware of an error in billing by the Golden Triangle Waste Services, the county's partner in waste collection.
The error, Trainer said, was roughly 1,800 residences that were not being billed for trash collection despite receiving services.
"The county has grown since its original documented amount," Trainer said. "We've been aware of that, but at the same time, we've never taken the initiative to really try to address it cause it really wasn't costing us any more."
After the Board was made aware of the issue, they were also informed the GTWS would be adding those residences to the county's bill, costing the county an extra $14,616 per month, starting Jan. 1. That number only covers the amount the county will have to pay to the GTWS, at a rate of $8.12 per residence.
"They did their own house count, and they discovered, according to their documents, that there was a substantial increase in the number of pickups compared to what they were billing us for," Trainer said.
The increase, Trainer said, was roughly 20%.
"Our problem is not only are they going to start charging us more, we're not collecting," Trainer said. "We discovered we had a lot of them out there that we weren't even billing."
Trainer said the county's billing department had been notified of the issue and were working on getting the people on the county's billing sheet.
Part of the difficulty with trash services, Trainer said, is that discontinuing the service, despite bills not being paid, is a harsh and often unreasonable answer.
"We can't discontinue the service," Trainer said. "That would be unrealistic, I guess would be a kind way of saying it. That trash would be scattered all across the county."
District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said it was vital the number presented to supervisors was accurate and noted there had already been a discrepancy in the total number of residences the GTWS reported collecting trash from and the number the county observed.
"So we'll have time to contact landowners, actually do a house count and make sure the number proposed is the correct number to be billed for," Howard said.
Howard said he had a hands-on-style approach for recording the correct number in his district.
"I'm going to ride next Friday with the truck myself and count to verify how many houses they are picking up in District 3. However, we need to do it, we need to verify the number in each district. Each supervisor needs to verify their number," Howard said.
For Howard, the bottom line for the county was the most important part of the trash collection conversation going forward.
"We need to get a count to make sure Oktibbeha County is not being charged more than what it should be," Howard said. "While at the same time, we need to make sure we're charging the people who need to be paying."
Aside from a hard count, Howard said the county needed to continue to comply with state law and treat every residence with an active electricity connection as a billable residence.
While no official vote was taken, Supervisors did lean toward a solution where landowners would be charged for trash collection, a move that would result in less bills being sent out and likely more of those bills being paid.
District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller said the change was a good direction for the county to go but urged her fellow supervisors to adequately alert landowners and create a transitional period for the switch.
"You're fixing to put a fee on the property owner that they may not have written in their contract, and I think there needs to be some time for them to make adjustments in those rental agreements before we start taxing, or even considering taxing, the landowner for a fee they have not been collecting," Miller said.
Miller suggested mailing out information across the county to get the word out about the change, but Supervisors ultimately agreed on a notification on outgoing trash bills to save the county having to pay for a mass mail-out.
The Board also agreed to hold a public hearing on the matter on Dec. 16.
IN OTHER NEWS
• The last easement required for improvements to be made to Blackjack Road has been acquired by the county, County Attorney Rob Roberson announced Monday. The project still must wait on utility lines to be moved before construction can begin, but Roberson said all the needed land had be gathered to widen and improve the decaying road.