By Greg Bird
By now many McCreary County residents who have yet to sign up for garbage collection service have received letters from the Judge Executive’s Office to encourage them to subscribe for collection, or potentially face penalties.
Judge Executive Doug Stephens said he had mailed 168 letters last week to households across the county explaining the need to sign up for service.
“To keep garbage service at the lowest possible rates for each household, we must have everyone on the service,” the letter read. “Disposing of garbage in an inappropriate way is illegal.”
Stephens said he hopes the letter will remind everyone that it is mandatory for all households to be on the service, as per the contract with Poff Carting.
The effort to encourage residents to sign up for garbage service comes a month after representatives from Poff Carting met with county officials to discuss taking action on enforcing the mandatory clause in the county ordinance.
Nine months in to the five-year contract between Poff Carting and the County, participation rates still lag and resistance to the mandatory clause in the contract has been a point of contention for citizens and elected officials alike.
The Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Ordinance was passed last August, did not contain the word “mandatory” in the language, but did explicitly state it would be illegal for anyone to fail to have solid waste collected in any manner not outlined in the ordinance.
The actual contract between Poff Carting and McCreary County does contain language explicitly calling for every household and business in the county to participate in garbage collection.
Clause 18 of the contract states: “Consistent with KRS 109.310 and county ordinance 830.6, all owners and occupants of residential property in the county and all commercial business establishments shall be required to participate in the solid waste collection provided in this agreement. Participation is mandatory.”
The contract allows for Poff Carting to provide lists of non-participating households, or delinquent accounts, to the County Attorney and/or law enforcement, for possible legal action. It further states it would be the responsibility of the County to pursue those accounts to either encourage subscribing for collection, or prosecution.
Last month Poff Carting had submitted a list of over 200 households they had identified as non-compliant with the ordinance to Judge Stephens. Stephens went over the list, eliminating some households that are vacant, and sent letters to the remaining addresses.
The letter urges those residents to contact Poff Carting about signing up for garbage collection, and reminds the recipients that there are potential penalties for non-compliance.
“To date, we have not pursued issuing citations and/or summons for court,” it reads. “Our expectations were that given sufficient time, people would sign up for service. You compliance with the provisions of the mandatory garbage ordinance will prevent us from having to seek compliance through District Court.”
Tuesday Judge Stephens said his office had received some responses to the letter, with most of them asking how to sign up. He also noted Poff Carting officials have also had numerous enquiries in to the service.
As we reported last month there is a possibility that Poff Carting could take legal action of their own against the County if officials do not uphold their end of the contract.
If non-compliance continues, the County Attorney could subpoena those individuals to court, or citations could be issued.
The county ordinance calls for penalties of $10 per day, up to $500 for each conviction for non-compliance.
The ordinance also states the county may choose to employ a code enforcement officer to enforce the garbage ordinances, as well as other ordinances, such as the business license.
Judge Stephens proposed creating a code enforcement position at a Fiscal Court meeting earlier this year, but the notion was met by strong resistance by Magistrates and did not come to a motion for a vote.
When Poff Carting took over service from Scott Solid Waste in January there were only 2,900 customers signed up for service. After five months Poff Carting reported that number had grown to 3,800, but it is still short of the minimum number needed for Poff Carting to pay a franchise fee to the county.
According to the contract if 4,200 residential customers have signed up for service, Poff Carting would pay 5.5 percent of collections back to the county as a fee. If the subscribers grow beyond 5,200 that fee increases to 6.5 percent.
The low participation could also mean increased garbage collection rates in the next contract.
With the subscriber total below the threshold, the County has no additional revenue stream from solid waste to support other waste management programs, such as recycling and road cleanups.