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City losing thousands in unpaid garbage debts

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By Kellie Parkin

Current and delinquent garbage collection bills were discussed by the Cedar Key City Commission last month. A variety of possible solutions were proposed including coupling the fee with property taxes so that landlords assume responsibility, contracting with a private collection agency, placement of liens on property and publishing the names of residents who owe money.

After extensive discussion, the commission decided to pursue a possible arrangement with the Cedar Key Water and Sewer District. At the 5 p.m. Jan. 12 CKWSD meeting, the city will ask the water district to assume the garbage collection billing responsibility. In turn, the district would receive a portion of the monies collected to cover administrative costs.

The arrangement would mean easier bill-payment for area residents and businesses, who would be able to write one check, use one stamp, or make one trip to pay both water and garbage fees. The other benefit, the commission said, is that the water district has a more advanced computer system to allow for more efficient collection, thereby freeing up time that the city can use for other important matters. The current system the city uses requires the clerk’s office to spend approximately one week each month processing garbage bills.

Overdue garbage bills

A review of delinquent accounts shows that the number of individuals or businesses shirking their duty is small. Most residents pay their garbage bill in a timely fashion. About three dozen residents are behind by six months or less. Some deceased residents’ accounts still show on the billing register.

The highest debts come from 11 businesses that owe the city approximately $8,200. The business that currently owes the most – $3,022 – made a payment of $3,500 in May, perhaps suggesting that this particular business pays on its own schedule. The business that owes the second largest amount – $1,458 – made payment of $400 in October. The remaining nine businesses owe a combined amount of about $3,700. Two have not made payment in more than a year and owe about $1,400.

Inactive residential accounts – those that have not received garbage service for a year or more –account for approximately $3,900 owed. Chances of recovering this total amount are slim, given the fact that some individual accounts are nearly a decade old or more.

The City of Cedar Key contracts with Waste Pro, paying them directly, and in turn the city bills businesses and residents for the service.

Garbage pickup is mandatory. “The problem with not picking up the garbage is that all of us have to see it and smell it,” said Commissioner Sue Colson.