Bay aims to collect on past-due trash bills
By Geoff Belcher
Feb 11, 2014, 20:18
The city of Bay St. Louis is taking steps to collect what it estimates to be more than $112,000 in outstanding utility bills.
Mayor Les Fillingame said Monday that remarks he made at last week's city council meeting were misinterpreted – the city is not $95,000 in arrears on its bill to the Hancock Solid Waste Authority. In fact, the city is only $34,843 behind on its bill to the authority – that represents the month of December, he said. The city hasn't received January's bill yet.
The $95,000 figure was in outstanding trash collection bills owed to the city, Fillingame said, although as of Monday, that figure was closer to $112,000, City Clerk David Kolf said.
Although that $112,000 is only for uncollected trash collection accounts in wards 5 and 6, Fillingame said he takes exception to Ward 6 Councilman Lonnie Falgout's assertion – quoted in last week's Sea Coast Echo – that the mayor is "once again" blaming the city's financial woes on wards 5 and 6.
Wards 5 and 6 are comprised mainly of the formerly-unincorporated areas of Hancock County which the city annexed after Hurricane Katrina.
"I have often said it's a challenge to provide services for an expanded city when we have the same revenues we had before the expansion," Fillingame said. However, he said, "I wouldn't have blamed or pointed the finger at any one area of the city.
"I have never, ever, ever held (wards 5 and 6) in any other light than I do the rest of the city. We are as much committed to serving them as we are anybody."
Fillingame said Monday the city actually got behind because for years, it was charging its customers less than what it was being billed.
The city is now catching up after a modest increase in customer rates, he said.
"Long-term, we still have to determine if the rates we are charging are covering the cost of operating the utility system," Kolf said.
Falgout maintains that many of the 354 supposed outstanding accounts are actually on properties in wards 5 and 6 that are no longer inhabited.
The Fillingame administration is working closely with Hancock County Tax Assessor/Collector Jimmie Ladner's office to get a more accurate accounting, the mayor said.
"The only reason we separated (wards 5 and 6) from the rest of the city is because they are still on a separate billing system. ... We just want everybody in the utility system in all six wards to pay for their services."