Garbage collections rile residents

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Sherri James said it best.

The phones at City Hall had been ringing off the hook as local residents began receiving letters from the Franklin Collection Agency indicating that their garbage bills have gone into collections.

Perkins said that around 150 people either called or came by City Hall about the matter.

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The collection letters stem from the time when the Selma Water and Sewer Board collected the garbage bills. This lasted from 1994-2001, Perkins said. During that time, not all of the garbage fees were collected and the laws for collecting them were not enforced.

The uncollected bills were turned over to the city, which is now responsible for collecting garbage fees, Perkins said. From there they were sent to Franklin. Perkins said around 4,000 records were sent to the collection agency.

Some have paid and slipped through the cracks, such as Marlon Rittenberry. He was out out of town and came back home last week to find a $16 bill from Franklin.

Rittenberry said that his bill was paid last March, but no one had a record of it.

Starting in January 2002, when the city of Selma began billing citizens for garbage again, the slate was wiped clean in a sense. Those who receive garbage bills today are only notified in they are past due if they were late on a bill between January 2002 and now under the new billing system.

Therefore, Perkins explained, someone who was not past due on their garbage bill since January 2002 could still owe for an unpaid bill between 1994 and 2001.

But, many people did not know that, bringing people like Yvonne Hatcher down to City Hall, past bills and recipts in hand, to prove she had paid her garbage bill.

Like Rittenberry, she argued that the bill was not very clear as to what period of time she was deliquent in.

Her collection letter was also for $16. But for some, it was more. Much more. Hatcher said she talked to one person who received a letter that said they owed around $700 to the city.

Perkins said that not all of the calls dealt with people getting a letter by accident. He said a lot of them dealt with people wanting to know how they could clear up the debt.

And, he added, he wanted to get the word out about what to do if a collections letter comes in the mail.

For those who received a letter by accident, Perkins assures them not to worry.

Perkins spoke with a represenative from Franklin Collection Agency shortly before Monday’s City Council meeting. He was told that if someone received a letter in error, they do not need to do anything right away.

If they receive a second letter, then that is when they need to get in touch with the City Clerk’s office.