CATEGORY: EDT Editorials
About 12,500 Lee County households and businesses each month receive a bill for garbage pick-up.
About three-fourths of those billed eventually pay what’s due. The rest freeload off the people who pay their bills, and county officials say the day is coming when those who pay will pay more because so many pay nothing.
Garbage collections in Lee County’s rural areas started relatively recently, and the idea that residents need to pay directly for disposal offends some people philosophically as well as financially.
Times change, however, and federal law requires garbage storage in licensed, approved sites like the Three Rivers Regional Landfill in Pontotoc County. Taxpayers used to foot the bill for everybody through property tax millage, but ceilings on millage levied for garbage collection made direct billing necessary.
Every resident in Lee County’s constantly updated data base receives a monthly bill for $7.50. It’s payable and due the county like electric bills payable to city utilities and power associations, or water bills payable to rural water associations or city utilities. The fee is for services rendered, and the benefit reaches far beyond the weekly pick of garbage sacks placed on the roadside.
The bottom line of garbage collection and the fee for it is environmental protection for every citizen. The growth of counties like Lee outside city limits and municipal service areas places greater stress on every part of the natural environment. More garbage means more danger of eventual contamination in ground water or through air pollution. The old and widely used practice of household burning or burial of garbage isn’t safe or legal.
Landfills designed and built to contain contamination and protect everybody’s air and water necessarily replace the old methods.
Part of the burden for protecting ourselves from our own garbage requires a personal financial commitment. The $7.50 in Lee County comes out to far less than what a family of four would spend on just one outing to a fast-food restaurant or for a couple to attend one first-run. evening movie. Most families, if they’re honest and reasonably frugal, can find $7.50 in their monthly budget to pay the garbage fee.
Lee and other counties with huge delinquencies (freeloaders owe about $350,000 in Lee County alone) want and need state laws to help them collect what’s owed. One approach would deny people the right to buy car tags if their garbage bills aren’t paid. The law would require a fair hearing of the consumer’s side, but it would allow a county to withhold the tag if the due process hearing ended in the county’s favor. Another proposal would allow counties to collect from delinquent consumers the full cost of paying to collect the bills owed them. That would allow counties to pay their bills in full by collecting in full what’s owed them.
The issue isn’t government trying to ram something down people’s throats. The issue is fairness and financial protection for the majority of citizens who pay their garbage bills. That 75-plus percent in Lee County shouldn’t have to face the prospect of footing the bill for what the other 25 percent can and should pay for identical services.
The majority who pay their bills should push for passage of legislation requiring freeloaders to pay their garbage bills, too.