NPR Story
12:21 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

OKC Residents Living Off the Water Grid Owe Millions In Past Due Trash Bills

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In October 2013, StateImpact reported on the 14,000 or so mostly rural Oklahoma City residents who have their own water wells and aren’t connected to the city water system.

There’s no charge for water on their utility bills, but they’re still supposed to pay for trash pickup. But as The Oklahoman‘s William Crum reports, 2,409 of these waterless utility accounts are past due, and have been for years — to the tune of $5.5 million:

A report prepared last fall by Oklahoma City for the 2014 legislative session showed 16 accounts more than $20,000 behind in payments for stormwater and trash service.

The customer at the top of the list was Burke Thomas, of 8301 N. Air Depot Blvd.

Thomas owed $755.37 in stormwater drainage charges and $3,110.58 for solid waste pickup. Late fees of $3,669.35 on the stormwater bill and $17,486.50 on the trash bill brought the total to $25,021.80. The late fees accounted for 84.5 percent of the total.

Crum reports this all started in 1994, when Oklahoma City decided to extend trash pickup to thousands of residents in rural areas of the city because of public health concerns. There were problems right away, as angry new trash customers hauled their trash bins to city hall in protest.

Threatening to shut off water if those with past due bill don’t pay isn’t an option in this case, so OKC turned to the state legislation for help, so far to no avail:

Oklahoma City’s legislative priorities include seeking authority to put liens on property to collect the overdue payments. No action has been taken on the bill, House Bill 1933, since May 16, 2013, when a House-Senate conference committee reported its members were unable to agree on the measure.

… If the cost of utility service, the city’s expenses and interest charges remain unpaid, they could be collected with overdue taxes and other charges when a property sells.

Copyright 2014 StateImpact Oklahoma. To see more, visit http://stateimpact.npr.org/oklahoma/.