Landlords speak out against ordinance

Published 7:22 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The idea of landlords footing the bill for their tenants’ garbage service went over like a lead balloon Tuesday during a meeting to discuss the proposal.

More than 50 property owners came out to a city council committee meeting to voice opposition to the idea.

“Why do I have to pay for their garbage because they are grown folks. They are paying for their electric. They are paying for their gas. They are paying for whatever else is in their place,” said Helene Felton. “Then they need to pay their garbage and be responsible.”

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The Selma City Council is considering an ordinance that would require property owners to be responsible for providing garbage service to all occupied dwelling.

“State law says the only thing you can do is pick up their garbage can,” said City Attorney Jimmy Nunn. “Until the state law changes, we don’t have any other mechanism. That’s the same problem the city had, and I think Sea Coast is having.”

The city already requires garbage service at all residencies; however, tenants are responsible for paying that bill currently.

Many landlords said they have a hard enough time collecting rent owed to them. Landlords asked what Sea Coast Disposal is doing to collect money owed to them and what kind of code enforcement the city is doing to ensure compliance with the current ordinance.

“The two previous administrations and the present administration have all bemoaned the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of dollars in delinquent garbage bills out there,” Nancy Bennett said. “If I don’t pay a bill, take me to court. And you can garnish my wages if I still don’t pay.”

Michael Myatt with Sea Coast said the city provides service to a little more than 4,300 households. There are approximately 8,000 occupied homes in Selma, according to the U.S. Census.

Of those, about 700 are at risk of being suspended this week due to nonpayment, and another 750 are exempt because the household’s only source of income is Social Security.

Myatt said the company was owed more than $77,000 for garbage service in Selma.

“We are just a really small company trying to serve Selma the best we could,” Myatt said. “We are trying to do a good job. We just need a little help.”

Sean VanDiver with the city of Selma said unless something is done Sea Coast may not sign another contract with the city. Advanced Disposal pulled out of Selma two years ago due to nonpaying customers.

“You think we have an epidemic now — if we don’t do something about the people not paying,” VanDiver said. “Nobody wants to pay, but we are in jeopardy of not having garbage service in the city of Selma.”

VanDiver said the city had a push earlier this year to have landlords provide information to City Hall about who is renting their property. He said six property owners totaling 137 dwellings provided the information.

“That told me y’all didn’t want to help us,” VanDiver said.

“All we are doing is asking you to help us. We are not asking you to pay the bill. We need to make sure that your tenant is responsible for getting a garbage can,” Councilman Michael Johnson said.