Town, County, PSA extend time to talk about garbage bill collection

Town, County, PSA extend time to talk about garbage bill collection

By MIKE WILLIAMS

The Patriot

The Town of Pulaski, Pulaski County and the Public Service Authority have agreed to continue discussions on a planned termination by the town of collecting garbage bill payments for the PSA.

A new modification agreement, approved first by the PSA and this week by both the county Board of Supervisors and Pulaski Town Council, calls for a continuation of the present refuse agreement – that dates back to 1986 – between the three governments, as well as a billing agreement between the PSA and the town.

The town has collected the PSA’s garbage payments from town residents since 2002.

The new agreement extends the time for cancellation by the town until Sept. 30 to allow for “continued communication” on the issue.

Talks between the town and the PSA have been ongoing since last fall over issues the town has in collecting the payments from town residents for the PSA.

Recently the town notified the PSA that it would no longer collect the payments as of June 1.

In letters and meetings between town and PSA officials, the town has expressed concerns over the time and energy it takes town employees to collect the bills.

“Citizens have grown increasingly vocal about not getting responses from the PSA and they call us because they pay us for garbage,” Town Manager Darlene Burcham said after a recent town council meeting.

“It’s created a workload for the staff in addition to billing – answering and responding to those questions. It’s difficult to explain to some people if they want to come in and just pay their water and sewer bill, that they have to pay the whole bill in order to have it (water) reconnected. The agreement, which was discussed by council, required a 90-day notice, we gave considerably more than that.

“We field questions all the time. Why hasn’t my garbage been collected? We think we need to be held responsible for what we are responsible for, and garbage is not one of those decisions. We just think it is a better situation if they are responsible for the bill collection,” she continued.

Burcham acknowledged the town collecting the garbage bill makes it easier for the PSA.

“It makes it easier for them on the collection side and the accountability side. I hope people also understand our reasons for feeling like it should be placed with the entity that is responsible,” she said.

Burcham stated in one letter, “the 5 percent rebate for collection services for the PSA does not begin to cover the number of hours that staff take trying to respond to questions regarding trash collection, the PSA holiday schedule, complaints over no return calls, in addition to being blamed for increases over which we have no control.”

She said collecting the PSA fees puts the town in an uncomfortable role that often times “shields the PSA from criticism.”

At a recent meeting of council, PSA Director Jared Linkous asked council to “please reconsider” the action.

Linkous explained the PSA’s possible difficulties collecting from some rental customers should the town end the agreement.

“Collection efforts for PSA garbage bills is successful because of the town’s ability to cut off water service for nonpayment of the bill. Without that it could be difficult,” he said, because town customers must pay the entire bill, including the garbage portion.

“Without that we would have to take measures to determine who is paying and who is not,” Linkous said, noting that typically that means issuing waste cans to customers, which he said would drive up costs for everyone.

Linkous warned of negative impacts for the town and PSA if there is a change in billing.

“At the end of day, it is going to be negative impacts to PSA, to town customers, through rate increases and reduced service and we fill like there will be negative impacts for town staff receiving complaints from folks who aren’t getting trash picked up for non-payment. The town won’t get $42,000 for billing services. It really feels like a lose-lose for everyone involved.

“We’d just ask again that you please, please reconsider termination of the contract,” Linkous said.

During the public comment period of Tuesday’s meeting of Pulaski Town Council, town resident Terrie Sternberg addressed council over her concerns if the town cancels the billing agreement with the PSA.

She said she fears the “unintended consequences” that may be caused by the termination.

Vice Mayor Brooks Dawson assured Sternberg the town is “doing its due diligence” on the issue, and assured her the town “won’t go through this process with blind action.”