Officials ready to crack down

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 30, 2001

on unpaid garbage bills


Staff Writer

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Jan. 30, 2001 10 PM

Pike County residents who haven’t paid their solid waste bills may find themselves facing criminal charges in court.

Last year, Sam Green, enforcement officer for the Solid Waste Department, brought the problem of nonpayment out in the open and the county is taking steps toward criminal prosecution for the second time.

Green said some people are as far as $400 and $500 on their bills and one person owes an estimated $800.

He said some people have not paid their bills in six years.

To deal with those who have not paid their solid waste bills, the county has two options ­ civil or criminal court ­ to get what is owed and they are ready to go to court, again.

When Green filed the first batch of cases with the Pike County Circuit Clerk’s office, he estimated between $70,000 and $80,000 was owed to the solid waste department.

That has been cut by some dollars after the initial announcement was made.

"I’ve tried to work every possibly way I could," Green said of those who owe money.

"This is my final choice," he said of going back to court.

Green is pledging to do everything it takes "to clean up this past year’s accounts" in the solid waste department.

Now, he’s taking another 15 names to the clerk’s office and will likely add another 15 by the end of February.

Nonpayment of solid waste fees is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of no less than $50 and no more than $200 for each day the person is in violation.

"This is just the turning point," Green said. "I’m going all the way until I clean up the delinquent accounts."

When Pike County presses charges, it will follow in the footsteps of officials in Henry County, who took a resident to court and won.

That man was fined $36,500 plus $194 in court costs for not paying his solid waste bill over two years. All he owed was a $10 monthly fee that would have totaled $240.

Since first announcing plans for criminal prosecution, Green said residents have taken the threat seriously.

He expects more will pay up, but will follow through and take those who don’t to court.

"My job is to enforce solid waste and I’m going as far as the law will allow," Green said. "All we’re asking is people pay their outstanding bills."

Part of the problem, Green said, is people who file for bankruptcy think they are exempt in paying their solid waste bills and that is not the case.

County attorney Allen Jones said Chapter 13 does not exempt them from paying their solid waste bill.

Jones said criminal prosecution may "send a message" to those who think they don’t have to pay for garbage pick up. However, he does not think civil action would make that big of an impact.