Unpaid bills

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Unpaid bills get clerks stewing

By Rupert Howell

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An apparent “stew” within the confines of Batesville Courthouse surfaced during Monday’s meeting of the Panola County Board of Supervisors when Panola County’s Tax Assessor David Garner and three of his deputy clerks addressed problems with collecting delinquent garbage bills.

According to Monday’s discussion, after a garbage bill is delinquent of $44 or more, the account is flagged and reflected on the property owner’s account in the tax office. If that person attempts to purchase a car tag, they must first leave the tax collector’s office and go to the solid waste office down the hall to clear the account in arrears and then back to the tax collector’s office.

The problem, according to the deputy clerks, is that often the account is not in arrears with either the wrong person being flagged or the account has been previously cleared. The deputy collectors often become the target of the wrath of those affected they say.

The deputy clerks told supervisors they are not garbage bill collectors and feel that they are doing the job of the solid waste department with one clerk saying that while attempting to straighten out a flagged tag, the lady in the solid waste department office, “was not nice.”

County Administrator Kelley Magee, whose office oversees solid waste, said she had never heard that complaint before. She acknowledged a problem and said a sign had been placed in the solid waste office warning those who owed $44 or more that they would not be able to purchase a car tag.

“What if they pay by mail?” one clerk asked.

Garner noted that some who had never lived outside the city limits were having their accounts flagged for being delinquent on county garbage bills.

Magee explained that accounts were checked by name and address and said at least some of the errors were due to people with identical names.

Asked if her office could check names against addresses to eliminate those being flagged for non-payment who don’t live in the county, Magee responded that they may have only recently moved within the city’s limits. She later produced a monthly sanitation report of users for supervisors that included 159 pages with 16 names per page.

Board President Kelly Morris said the problem appeared to be in both offices and noted the simplest way to avoid the problem was for people to pay their garbage bills. 

Reminding all in the room that they must work together, Morris agreed with Magee that there was no easy solution and told Garner he needed to sit down with the county administrator to work out a better system.