Jones: System is ‘broken’

Published 9:02 pm Monday, July 7, 2014

It’s a broken system. That’s the gist of County Attorney Allen Jones’ take on trash collection and disposal in the area.

The broken system is what led the county to get out of the waste management business years ago. Alabama’s Constitution allows counties to deem participation in trash pick-up a mandatory or optional service. However, the law does not specify any means of enforcement.

“Pike County, years ago, made participation by county residents in a solid waste collection and disposal system mandatory,” Jones said.

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At the time, the county had a solid waste collection and disposal department. “What happened is the delinquency in participation, in people not getting cans and the delinquency in payment of the fees, resulted in enormous financial losses to the county to the point that it became necessary for the collection and disposal service to be handled by an independent service,” Jones said.

Now, Advanced Disposal has found itself with more than 1,000 delinquent accounts. Non-paying customers are placed on the Stop Service list once their accounts are 60 days overdue.

Chief Marketing Officer Mary Middleton O’Brien said residents with delinquent accounts are responsible for the majority of complaints regarding Advanced Disposal’s service.

“Thirty-two percent of the Pike County residents (or 1,022 to be exact) remain on Stop Service for non-payment of their garbage bill,” she said.

Advanced Disposal’s 1,022 non-paying customers are essentially breaking the law. They are not participating in the county’s mandatory service. But, law enforcement will not be knocking on anyone’s doors.

“The law does not provide sufficient penalties for noncompliance,” Jones said.

After meeting with local judges, Jones has found that the most that can be done is a civil lawsuit or a citation with a fine incurred for every day the resident does not have garbage picked up.

The lawsuits work, but are not cost-effective. Jones said the county filed several lawsuits when it managed trash pick up. Not only did the people named in the suit pay, but news of the suits led to others paying on delinquent accounts.

“You’re relying on the good faith of the residents to do the right thing. It is the citizen’s duty and responsibility to participate,” said Jones. “They owe it to their neighbor to keep the county and the environment clean.”

Jones said many counties have lobbied for stricter penalties, but it has not happened. “We have a broken system and it’s broken because the law is broken.”