Garbage Fee
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Thread: Garbage Fee

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
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    Eureka Springs, Arkansas
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    458

    Default Garbage Fee

    By now, some of you who own property in Carroll County have received your tax statements. And if you did, you probably noticed that there is an $18 "garbage fee."

    I reported this to the Quorum Court last August. It then received some coverage in the local press. But given the reaction of taxpayers now that bills are going out, I do not think it was talked about nearly enough!

    Following is a summary of how this fee came to be. I posted it to Facebook some months ago. Jacqueline Froelich also did a report on KUAF on October 11.

    August 25, 2017:

    This story has managed to stay under the radar, at least in Carroll County, it seems. Yet it has been building for a dozen years and, come 2018, “the fee is going to hit the fan”. I was told a couple of days ago that the Quorum Court needed to be aware of this. Aware of what, I thought – I hadn’t received any warning that this was coming; and neither had the people who will be responsible for implementing this fee. A lot of online searching followed along with some help with the Records Clerk at the Pulaski Circuit Court. More will follow soon – I also just learned that a meeting is to be held at which the Receiver will give directions to county officials on how this fee is to be handled.

    BACKGROUND: This story began in 2005 when the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District purchased a landfill in Baxter County and financed it with $12.3 million in bonds issued by the Bank of the Ozarks. Carroll County is part of this District, along with Baxter, Boone, Marion, Searcy and Newton. It is one of 8 regional districts state-wide that are authorized to deal with solid waste disposal. County Judges and Mayors act as our representatives.

    ADEQ determined early on that because of improper construction on older parts of the landfill, there was a risk that groundwater would be contaminated unless the District undertook remedial actions. Though the District is authorized to charge a service fee on users, it opted not to. But over time, the landfill’s revenue of $2/ton tipping fees plus grants were insufficient to keep up with operating costs and the expenses of state-mandated remediation. By 2012 the financial situation has deteriorated to the point that the Board voted to default on the Bonds. The Bank sued and the District then filed for bankruptcy protection.

    As if all of this history is not interesting enough, what was learned during the bankruptcy hearings surely is.

    To repeat: The District had the power to charge a service fee to buttress its revenue stream, early on. It chose not to – one of the reasons given was that there was some concern that it would be an illegal exaction. However, in testimony before the Bankruptcy Court in 2014, Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney stated that “…the board considered it a politically unacceptable solution that would likely result in District board members not being reelected to the offices that they held in their respective counties." So while the financial situation could have been alleviated, in whole or in part, the Board did not do so for political reasons!

    The District’s petition for bankruptcy protection was dismissed, partly because it did not qualify as an entity under Arkansas law authorized to seek bankruptcy; and partly because, as the Judge wrote: “Additionally, the Court finds that even if the state of Arkansas had specifically authorized the District to file bankruptcy, the District did not file this case in good faith…” [emphasis added]

    NOW: This brings us to April 21, 2017 when Pulaski Circuit Judge Tim Fox ordered the assessment of an $18 per year service fee on “each residence and business parcel located within the District.” In addition, the Order states that “the owners of multi-unit residential properties shall be charged a Service Fee for each unit…” It is anticipated that this fee shall continue for decades. There remain questions about to treat home businesses (one or two fees) and tax exempt properties such as churches and schools, questions that the Receiver has yet to answer.

    Because of the default on the bonds, the District is in Receivership. Judge Fox ordered it to pay FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS to the Receiver along with legal fees and costs incurred prior to the Order.

    This story will continue, I hope, at least for the citizens to better understand what happened, and why.

    August 30, 2017:

    RE: GARBAGE FEE FOR CARROLL COUNTY RESIDENTS AND BUSINESSES

    Part 2: (Continuation from last week)

    There was testimony in bankruptcy court that the reason the Directors of the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District refused to assess a service fee was they were afraid they would not be reelected to the positions they held. State law authorizes such a fee.

    [ Here is the link to the order dismissing the District's Chapter 9 petition:

    http://www.arwb.uscourts.gov/orders-...SolidWaste.pdf ]

    But, because they feared not being reelected, the Directors failed to create a revenue stream that might have allowed the District to continue meeting its debt obligations as well as to continue dealing with the State-mandated clean up at its Baxter County landfill.

    So, how did this work out for us?

    Regardless of the Board's prevarications, we ARE going to pay a service fee. It is going to be $18/year covering the bonds that the District defaulted on (est. $11 million remaining) as well as the ADEQ clean-up at the landfill ($12.1 million). This service fee likely will be in place for decades.

    I've read where the cost of the clean-up, several years ago, would have been hundreds of thousands of dollars less than the $12.1 million dollar contract ADEQ recently entered into.

    The Board feels that the bondholders should be out of luck because they knew what the risks were. Take a look at this news report from December 1, 2016: http://www.ozarksfirst.com/news/18-f...fill/614548959

    I've read - and reread - that piece and kept coming away feeling more disgusted each time. While as a general rule, I agree that investors assume risks. In this case, however, I do not believe that a reasonable investor would have contemplated that the Board, when faced with declining revenue, would not take statutorily-permissible steps to bolster the revenue stream.

    Put yourself in the investors' shoes: What risk would YOU think you were assuming if you had invested in an entity (1) that looked like and walked like and talked like a part of your government; (2) that had the power to assess fees to cover its expenses; and (3) that had a Board of Directors made up of elected County Judges and Mayors?

    I don't know about you, but I would not think that bad faith would be part of any investment I was going to make..

    This fee is going to annoy me, for years.

    If you want to learn more, Google Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District. Check to see who sat on the Board and was responsible for this fee. Oh, and by the way, this fee likely will appear on your tax statements for at least the next 30 years - even after you sell!
    "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Martin Luther King, Jr. "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Desmond Tutu

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    Our taxes went up by $179 over last year. I saw the garbage fee and expected it. What I didn't expect was the new school millage to raise them by the major amount, over $150 for that.
    ****Even if the voices aren't real, they have some really good ideas! ****
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  3. #3
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    Feb 2006
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    Thank you, Lamont -- All Helpful info!
    mm

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    10,082

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    Newton County has what seems to me a reasonable garbage fee. Garbage has to be in a large bag you buy for $3. When I lived in Carroll County I rented a little dumpster for about $20 a month. Garbage fees should, or course, depend on use.

    To a politician the greatest good is to be re-elected. The greatest evil is to lose. In my dottage I'm starting to think that term limits are a good idea.

    Yes Lamont, I'm looking at the little picture.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    Eureka
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    Watch the video, looks like the next 4 or 5 generations will be paying this off.

    http://www.ozarksfirst.com/news/fail...gins/845564941

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
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    Eureka Springs, Arkansas
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    Some of the push-back I am getting is directed at the Judge who imposed the fee. Somehow the Judge is the bad guy in this scenario. But the Judge followed Arkansas law.

    Regional solid waste districts are permitted to sell bonds. The bonds are tax exempt and they are deemed sufficiently safe to warrant being owned by public funds. The statute details steps to be taken in the event of a default, including the imposition of a fee on tax statements to cover the loss to the bondholders.

    The $18 fee is designed to cover the principal on the bonds (some $12M) plus the cost to clean-up the landfill (another $12+ million). But wait...there's more...there also will be the cost to clean-up the thousands upon thousands of tires on that site.

    I am hearing that our Tax Collector and Assessor are getting the brunt of the complaints. Please be polite...neither they nor their staff had anything to do with this. They are following a court order - one, by the way, that the Board of the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District agreed to.
    "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Martin Luther King, Jr. "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Desmond Tutu

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Posts
    234

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    Oh Boy, thanks Lamont. I have three 18 dollar charges on my tax bill. Two for houses, and one for a parcel with no improvements. Who should I talk to (politely,) the Collector or the Assessor about the extra charge? I know they are probably tearing their hair out.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
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    Eureka Springs, Arkansas
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    My suggestion is to go to the website for the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District and download the list of Board members. Contact them and express your displeasure. Then, if any respond, post those responses here. It will be interesting to see how they spin their actions.

    Also, look to see who's running for office this year.
    "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Martin Luther King, Jr. "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Desmond Tutu

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
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    Eureka Springs, Arkansas
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    Terri - neither the Collector nor the Assessor can change anything about this fee.

    I have been told that some of the Board members are deflecting their responsibility by saying that the bondholders should have just lost their $12M investment "because they knew what the risks were". In fact, when those bonds were sold the purchasers knew their risk - it was nominal because state law allowed any losses to be passed on to the property owners in the district. That is what happened.

    We can argue the law is wrong..but the Board still took advantage of it. So while we may have to pay this fee for the rest of our lives...we can look to remove the Board members from office now.
    Last edited by Lamont; 03-11-2018 at 11:26 AM.
    "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Martin Luther King, Jr. "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Desmond Tutu

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    7,835

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    OMG Lamont.. the info is welcome, but the thought that Shug, who may bring a tea cup full of trash to the County will be waxed for $18, over and above fees and services we all pay sickens me... her artists social security is such a bonanza. The trash fee is just another brick in the wall.

    I.D. we all feel your pain on the school millage. Many of us fought it, a few artfully sold it. The irony of it is that the old school is for the most part in the salesmen's hands.
    "They tried to bury us, but did not know we were seeds." Mexican proverb

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