Leflore County is proceeding with a plan to get East Leflore Water and Sewer District’s help in collecting the monthly fees for garbage collection.

During a one-hour closed-door session Monday, the county Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to authorize County Attorney Joyce Chiles to draft a proposed contract for the collection service with an effective start date of Nov. 1.

Still to be worked out, however, is how much East Leflore would be paid for providing the service. District 5 Supervisor Robert Collins said the fee would be at least 50 cents per month per customer.

It was that uncertainty about the cost that District 1 Supervisor Sam Abraham said prompted him to cast the lone dissenting vote. “I want to make sure what they’re going to charge before I do it,” he said.

The county has been wrestling for years with what to do about residents who don’t pay their garbage bills. As of March, the county was owed $1.3 million in unpaid fees, with nearly 2,500 residents owing at least $200 in back fees and some owing more than $2,000. With a little more than 3,800 total accounts billed at $8.50 per month, that means about two-thirds of the county’s garbage collection customers were at least two years behind, with some more than 20 years behind.

The past-due balance has been growing by about $25,000 a month since then.

The county currently withholds auto tag renewals until garbage bills are paid, but the high percentage of people in arrears for garbage collection fees indicates county residents have figured out a way to get their tags without paying their bills.

The arrangement with East Leflore would presumably call for cutting off a resident’s water service, except in emergency situations, if the utility’s bill, including the garbage fee, goes unpaid.

East Leflore provides water and sewer service to about 80 percent of the county outside of Greenwood. The other county residents — living in Itta Bena, Sidon and Morgan City — are covered by separate water systems in those towns. Collins said he expects that once a collections deal is struck with East Leflore, the county would approach those three towns’ water systems about a similar arrangement.

East Leflore would bill only for current garbage service going forward. The $1.3 million in past-due balances would still have to be dealt with by the county, although Collins said the county could use East Leflore’s customer database to see whether those who are seriously delinquent still reside at the location for which they are listed in the garbage-fee records.

“We’re not sure that these people that owe the money are still in the house or not,” Collins said.

In other business, the board:

• Took under advisement an $8.2 million bid from Malouf Construction of Greenwood to build a 2.6-mile road to connect Viking Range Road to Mississippi 7. It was the only bid submitted, even though 10 road contractors had picked up the specifications for the planned project.

Officials with the Office of State Aid Road Construction, who were on hand for the bid opening, said they are seeing the same thing in other counties where a paucity of contractors is bidding on projects, apparently because they have a backlog of work already.

• Heard a request from Harvey Wardell of the Itta Bena Recreational League for a donation to help the youth football program replenish missing equipment. Wardell, a volunteer with the program, said that last year, after an incident occurred for which he declined to provide details, “all of a sudden the equipment disappeared when we were trying to get started.”

Harvey Wardell

Wardell

Wardell said all that remained were approximately 25 sets of shoulder pads — not enough to outfit an anticipated 60 players, ages 8 to 12. He said he would like the county to consider a contribution in the range of $3,000 to $5,000.

The supervisors asked Wardell to furnish them with an itemized breakdown and cost of the equipment the program needs before their next meeting on Aug. 27.

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.

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