In November, residents of Hannibal will be given the option of increasing from 70 cents to $1.90 the fee that helps fund the Northeast Missouri Sheltered Workshop’s recycling program. But even if it passes, there is no guarantee that everyone will pay the fee.
During last week’s meeting of the Hannibal City Council, Bob Stevenson, general manager of the Board of Public Works which collects the recycling revenue for the NMSW, estimated that approximately 100 households do not pay the fee. A week later, Stevenson still stands by that number.
“The number of 100 is not too far off of the people who refuse to pay that every month,” he said.
Many of those people who choose not to pay the recycling fee likely believe they have an option. They are wrong, according to James Lemon, city attorney.
“It’s not a voluntary fee,” he said during the Council meeting. “It’s a fee that was approved by the voters.”
Citing case law, Lemon told the Council that it is within a city’s right to assess a recycling fee, especially since voters have twice approved it.
The issue dates back to 2009, when by an 816-444 margin voters initially approved the 70-cent monthly fee. Almost immediately councilmen reported constituents were asking what would happen if they refused to pay the fee. However, no sort of penalty was included in the proposal that voters approved in August 2009 and re-approved in April 2012.
In 2009, Lemon said enforcement would fall to the municipal court under the city’s general enforcement powers. The penalty for non-payment, according to Lemon, would be up to Municipal Judge Fredrich Cruse.
During last week’s Council meeting, Lemon was directed to draft an ordinance outlining a penalty for those choosing not to pay the recycling fee.
While the BPW is responsible for collecting the recycling fee, it does not have the authority to penalize those who choose not to pay it.
“If the fees are not paid by individuals it really has nothing at all to do with the Board of Public Works. There was no penalty fee in the proposition that was voted on,” said then-general manager of the BPW, Don Willis, in August 2009. “As far as the Board of Public Works is concerned whatever money we collect for the 70-cent recycling fee will be passed on to the Northeast Missouri Sheltered Workshop. That’s it. We send the bills, collect the money and what money is collected will be sent to the sheltered workshop.”
Almost four years later the same policy applies.
“We pay (the sheltered workshop) what’s collected,” said Stevenson.
Page 2 of 2 - Stevenson did tell the Council that the unpaid fee accrues over time on a customer’s account and could eventually lead to it being red flagged as an unpaid utility bill. Thus far no accounts have reached the cutoff plateau because of unpaid recycling fees.
“At 70 cents a month it would take until the 71st or 72nd month before reaching the $50 trigger. We haven’t been doing it that long,” he said.
The collection of the recycling fee by the BPW began in September 2009, or 34 months ago.