Scranton's Decade-Old Garbage Bills Anger Some Residents

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Scranton garbage bills

When you're strapped for cash, you'll do just about anything to get a little dough, right? Well, the city of Scranton, Pa., is so broke that it's pursuing residents to pay up on garbage-collection bills that are 13 years overdue.

Scranton officials have sent out 7,800 notices on delinquent bills this week, some dating as far back as 1999, The Times-Tribune in Scranton reported. The most recent of the overdue charges for garbage-collection are from 2011.

But some Scranton residents are calling the city's move trashy. Mary Beth VanWinkle told local station WNEP-TV that she should have never received a bill for garbage-collection -- because her house burned down in 2007.

"It's not delinquent," she said. "I didn't have to pay it because there was no house there!"

The garbage bill she recently received from the city charged her for every year after her house was destroyed. She took proof of the fire to the city to clear up the mistake.

"We're handling them on an individual basis," Scranton Treasurer Chris Boland told The Times-Tribune. He said that anyone who can produce proof that a bill was paid or inappropriately charged will have it forgiven.


This case is particularly troubling, Business Insider noted, because residents' homes could be at risk over unpaid bills. City officials can put liens against homes and force them into foreclosure to recover those debts. (One woman in Atlanta nearly lost her home earlier this year because of an unpaid tax bill -- even though it wasn't even hers.) And as many Scranton residents have complained, it's hard to produce proof of payment on a garbage bill that is 10 years old or older.

The city of Scranton has said that it stands to raise $700,000 to $800,000 a year on unpaid garbage-hauling bills. But officials have also admitted that some of their records might not be up to date because the city switched refuse-collection companies earlier this year.

"There were some mistakes made," Boland told WNEP-TV. "That's what we're trying to correct in the office."

That's been a headache for resident Tim O'Malley. He said that he isn't able to prove that he paid his bills because the receipts were being sent to his home's previous owner -- who now lives in Florida.

"First of all, the city should know who lives in the town and who owns the property," O'Malley said. "And it shouldn't take five to six years to catch up with who actually is there and how many people are coming and going in that amount of time."

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