Questions concerning double billing of garbage fees were brought to the attention of both Mantachie and Itawamba County officials during their July board meetings.
Mantachie Water and Waste Department Manager Rod McFerrin brought two billing issues before the town’s board. Both customers, he said, had been billed by the Town of Mantachie and Itawamba Solid Waste. The issue came to light after a comparison and verification of billing reports were completed between the two entities by the town’s officials.
According to McFerrin, in one instance, the home in question wasn’t within town limits, but the water meter was. This resulted the customer being billed for solid waste service by the county. The fee was also included on the town’s water/sewer bill. The customer overpaid $69.
In the second instance, the customer originally set up a bank draft in 2010 through Itawamba Solid Waste. Since February 2018, when a family member moved into the home, the garbage fee has been included on the water bill issued by the Town of Mantachie. The owner was unaware the bill was being paid to both entities. The resulting over-payment was $234.
Mantachie’s water, garbage and/or sewage fees are combined on one bill. The town oversees their own processing, printing and collecting each month, unlike Itawamba Solid Waste, which uses Pontotoc-based nonprofit Three Rivers Planning & Development District for their billing. After Mantachie’s garbage debts are collected, the town pays Itawamba Solid Waste $12.09 of the $13 collected per household. The town keeps the remaining 91 cents for processing costs.
Since both residents in question are in the town limits, the board agreed they should only be billed by Mantachie. The question at hand was who owed the customers a refund after double billing.
Town of Mantachie attorney Chip Mills said Itawamba Solid Waste should be liable for the refund.
“The procedures, or lack there of, that Itawamba County and Three Rivers have put in place over the years for garbage liens have proven to be unreliable,” Mills said. “From no bills, to double billing, to ghost billing, their record-keeping procedures have hurt a lot of honest folks. They need to wipe the slate/records clean.”
During the July 16 Itawamba County Board of Supervisors meeting, Randy and Barbara Burleson appeared before the board concerning garbage bill charges against one of their rental homes. The couple recently received a bill from five years prior and had never rented to the person in whose name the bill was listed.
Since running into a previous issue with unpaid garbage fees on their rental properties, the Burlesons changed their rental policy to include the garbage fee. After doing so, they confirmed with Itawamba Solid Waste that their debts were clear. Then they received a bill.
The couple questioned the board on how an account was opened for someone who had never lived at the address and why they were receiving a bill five years after the fact. They also asked if the county verified proof of residency before opening accounts.
Chairman Eric “Tiny” Hughes noted they do verify accounts through Tombigbee Electric Power Association’s listings. Itawamba Solid Waste Clerk Stephanie Wright confirmed that there is a verification process.
The Burlesons reiterated their concern that the bill had lingered for four years and ask the board why it hadn’t surfaced earlier.
County attorney Bo Russell stated that the system used by Three Rivers has changed over the last several years possibly causing the error. He also noted that state law mandates a delinquent garbage bill remain tied to a property, even if that property changes ownership.
The couple met privately with Wright to compare their records with those of the Solid Waste Department. According to Wright there was a duplicate billing issue for the Burlesons rental home and they were not responsible for the debt.