Mayor says residents’ failure to pay bills is keeping Bay behind
By Geoff Belcher
Feb 7, 2014, 20:22
The city of Bay St. Louis is about $95,000 behind on its bill to the Hancock Solid Waste Authority, and Mayor Les Fillingame said Tuesday that's because a lot of residents in wards 5 and 6 haven't been paying their bills to the city.
Ward 6 Councilman Lonnie Falgout says there's much more to the story.
The matter came up during the public comment period of Tuesday's Bay city council meeting.
Fillingame said that using a GIS program provided by Hancock County Tax Assessor/Collector Jimmie Ladner's office, the administration has identified about 354 homes in wards 5 and 6 that do not pay into active garbage collection accounts. However, he said, the garbage collection trucks stop at all houses on the route.
"There's a lot of people not paying this bill," Falgout said, but he countered that they weren't all necessarily living in wards 5 and 6.
"People are upset about this because once again, the mayor is blaming the city's financial woes on wards 5 and 6," Falgout said Wednesday.
Falgout also disputes the number of "non-paying" homes the administration is counting.
Ladner clarified on Wednesday.
"What we did is provide a GIS layer to them that shows everything that's out there, houses, whatever's there," Ladner said.
The list of 354 properties the city is counting only includes properties where permits and licenses indicate any improvement of $10,000 or more has been done since Hurricane Katrina, Ladner said.
Just because there are 354 properties on that list doesn't necessarily mean they're all inhabited, he said.
"Some could be a $10,000 shell of a house ... some of those values might be on a boat shed. ... What we did was cut it down from thousands of lots out there for them to go look at, to now they've got 354 houses to look at. They saved thousands of man hours.
"What we did is narrow the list. We're not saying all 354 should have garbage accounts."
Fillingame said his administration is working on a plan to do a city-wide house count to determine exactly who is paying and who isn't.
Once the proper property owners are identified, he said, letters will go out to non-paying homeowners.
He hopes that process will only take a few weeks.
"We have a hard time getting some people (county-wide) to pay their garbage bills," Ladner said. "It has gotten somewhat better, because now we attach the car tags to it – if you don't pay your garbage bill, you can't get your car tags."
However, he said, there are a lot of people with second homes in wards 5 and 6 who actually live out-of-state, so the car tag requirement doesn't affect them.
Still, Ladner said, "I don't think the number of people being delinquent in wards 5 & 6 is the reason the city of Bay St. Louis is behind on their solid waste bill."