Windcrest looks to clean up problems with garbage service debt

Delinquent bills are a thorn in every municipality’s side: People receive basic services but refuse to pay for them.

Windcrest residents who have taken advantage of the city’s garbage service and billing, take note — the city is ready to call your hand.

Windcrest charges $164.70 for six months of twice-weekly trash pickup, according to Don Hakala, city finance officer. Efforts to cut into the thousands of dollars owed by delinquent customers was a topic of discussion March 15 at the Windcrest City Council meeting.

Hakala announced residents can sign up for email billing service beginning April 1.

“We’ve used it the past two months with commercial customers and it seems to be working very well,” Hakala said.

The email billing is another effort, he said, to reduce the number of delinquent accounts in the city.

At the end of February, city logs showed 278 delinquent accounts, which amounted to $46,000 uncollected.

“Of those 278 (customers), 176 are multiple periods delinquent; they owe for more than one period. Probably 50 owe for three or four periods,” he said.

Hakala said his staff is researching what surrounding cities are doing to reduce delinquencies and recoup funds, such as requiring deposits, issuing citations and enforcing penalties for nonpayment.

Councilwoman Joan Pedrotti thanked Hakala for the emphasis on garbage fees collection, which has sliced the delinquent amount in half.

“In residential, we were probably well over $100,000 in arrears,” Hakala said. “The (employee) position you granted us is doing an excellent job of collecting, contacting people, and working out payment plans with those who are cooperative.”

Councilman Wes Manning asked about the city’s ability to separate trash service users from the abusers.

“You have a list of the people who haven’t paid, right?” Manning asked. “And you know how much they haven’t paid, right? And we don’t have any legal action to go over there and do something about it?”

Hakala said the city could issue citations for nonpayment. He said City Attorney Ryan Henry will be consulted when Hakala’s staff comes back with recommendations from their probe of other cities’ delinquency collection efforts.

Mayor Dan Reese said the city might consider requiring one period’s charge as a deposit. That way, if an account goes delinquent, the city has the deposit to use in keeping the account current and for establishing a citation or issuance of a lien.

“We have pickup twice a week. Most places don’t,” Pedrotti said. “We have all these additional services, and residents are getting a good bang for the buck. It’s insane that people don’t think they need to pay for this.”

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