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City may put trash bills in one place

DEMOPOLIS – Streamlining city services could be the outcome of a move by city officials to take over billing for garbage services here.

Council members are considering moving the billing for city garbage collection to city hall employees – a move that would allow better tracking of delinquencies and enforcement of city’s garbage ordinance.

Earlier this month, Paula Brame, administrative assistant tot he Demopolis Water Works and Sewer Board, requested the council consider moving the responsibility to city hall, citing an ever-increasing burden on the board’s two full-time and one part-time employees.

The city pays the board $1,400 per month for the water department’s services. The city contracts with a private company to manage the water and sewer program for the city.

“The move could save the city $16,800 per year,” said City Clerk Vickie Taylor, who would oversee the billing operation. “and it would help customers resolve problems.”

Currently, while the water board bills for garbage, its water and sewer customers must go to city hall with their complaints or problems.

Taylor said it was also difficult for the water department to keep track of which garbage customers haven’t paid.

The difficulties don’t stop with the customers, Taylor said. The transition would take some time.

“It’s going to be pretty tough. The worst part is going to build the file for everybody – setting up their new accounts,” she said. “Once that’s done it shouldn’t be much trouble except for the additional work of billing and collecting.”

As an alternative, at its first council meeting this month, council members had asked Caldwell to investigate the possibility of having Arrow Disposal Service, the city’s current garbage contract, take over billing duties.

In a letter of response to Caldwell’s request, Arrow CEO Richard Urrutia said such a move would increase the garbage costs – currently $13.60 per month, a move council members didn’t want to take during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

“In order for ADS to provide such service there would be an inicrease in our administrative cost as well as the allowance for bad debt. Because we have no means fo enforcing the mandatory participation law and guaranteeing payment, our price would have to be considerably higher,” he said.

Urrutia also said the company was experiencing “higher than average” bad debt in Marengo County and could be an indication of what the company could expect in Demopolis if it took over the billing.

Caldwell briefed the council members on the letter, and the council tabled the discussion.