The Bell County 109 Board approved a rate increase for garbage service in Bell County on Tuesday during a special-called meeting.
For residential customers, the rate will be $12 a month, an increase of 75 cents. Commercial customers will see an increase of 50 cents per yard.
The increase begins Jan. 1.
With the increase of the rate, Mills projected the revenue for the company will increase by $39,000 a year. It was reported the garbage rate has also increased in Knox County by $1.
The rate increase results from the sluggish economy and a continued decline in the number of customers.
According to Sheila Mills, representing Mills Garbage Collection, only 4,392 customers were charged in recent months.
“We are going under without an increase,” said Mills during the meeting. “We’ve had three months in the last year that we have brought in more (garbage) than we paid out. No company can continue doing that.”
Mills said if the company did not get more income, then it would be forced to go out of business.
She noted the individuals owning landfills are constantly raising prices.
Mills said in recent years, employees have left and the company did not hire replacements in attempts to save money. The company employees have not received a raise in two years.
“If we didn’t need (the increase), I wouldn’t come here asking for it,” said Mills.
Though the 109 Board granted the increase, many members on the board indicated they believe the primary problem is customers not paying their bills or refusing to sign up for garbage service.
By ordinance, garbage service is mandatory in Bell County. The ordinance also states it is the property owner’s responsibility to have garbage service.
Mills said the company has experienced problems by people placing garbage with other property owners to avoid paying for service, which adds to the revenue problem for the company. Another challenge the company has is getting people back on garbage service after having been cut off for non-payment. It again was noted that garbage service is mandatory by ordinance.
The board continues to seriously look at the option of adding the garbage bill to another utility bill. The board stated they would have to discuss the issue with the cities of Middlesboro and Pineville. No action was taken on the issue.
Anthony Cloud is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. He can be contacted via email at email@example.com or by phone at 606-248-1010, ext. 208.