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Athens may seek to increase charges for garbage payments

By Holly Hollman · 340-2445

ATHENS — No one is saying it’s a case of tit for tat.

But after the county found a way to charge the city to collect property tax, the city now is looking at increasing how much it charges the county to collect garbage payments.

When asked after Monday’s Athens City Council meeting if this was in response to the county’s actions, Mayor Dan Williams said, “Not officially.”

Williams then explained that just as the county wants to ensure its expenses are covered in collecting property tax, the city wants to cover its expenses to collect garbage payments.

So why is one entity collecting for another in the first place?

The Limestone County Revenue Commissioner collects all property tax and disburses it to the schools, municipalities like Athens and other entities. In April, unbeknownst to Athens and those entities, the County Commission got the local legislative delegation to support a bill requiring those entities to pay the county for that collection.

Athens didn’t realize it would have to ante up until December, when during a work session, councilmen criticized the county for quietly getting the bill passed. Councilmen then mentioned increasing the county’s garbage fees.

The city operates Athens Utilities, which sends out monthly utility bills. Included on those bills are county customers’ payments for garbage pickup. AU sends that amount collected to the county.

On Monday, Bill Vaughn, with AU’s Customer Service Department, said the city and county have a verbal agreement regarding what the city charges. He said the county pays 25 cents per customer per month. The county had 20,040 customers in December.

“On average, they pay us $5,000 a month to collect that, and it doesn’t cover the cost of us providing that service,” Vaughn said, adding that it takes three city employees to collect and disburse the money and answer any calls from county customers.

“We’re way too cheap,” Vaughn said.

He suggested, starting March, charging 50 cents per customer and going up to 75 cents in July. Councilman Ronnie Marks said he would rather charge 60 cents mid-year and go up to $1 by year’s end.

Marks said that would fall in line with the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority charging Huntsville $1.10 per customer to include Huntsville utility charges on its bills.

Electric Department Manager Gary Scroggins cautioned the council not to charge too much because the county could decide to get the water authority to collect garbage payments.

“Then we would lose that money they pay us now,” Scroggins said.

The council told Vaughn to work on a proposal that includes going up to $1.

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