The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

July 26, 2012

Clinton struggling with solid waste billing

Software issues strangling city's ability to get bills to solid waste service users

CLINTON — The city of Clinton continues to work on the solid waste program that has caused problems since it was instated in August.

City Administrator Jeff Horne reported to the City Services Committee on Wednesday that the city had still not established all of the residences which utilize the city's solid waste services.

However, the city does have two handheld scanners in use to try to tackle the problem.

“I think, at this point, we’re trying to make the technology work to the extent we can,” Horne said.  

The technology of the solid waste system has plagued the city for months.

The city does not have a reconciled database of who uses its solid waste services. Because not every resident uses city solid waste service, the city is trying to collect the information for those who do in order to charge the flat monthly fee, which has not been charged since it went into effect May 1.

While carts were microchipped and tied to a certain address, not all were delivered to the correct address, causing discrepancies.

At-large Council Member John Rowland suggested circumventing the technology and utilizing those most familiar with who uses the services.

“Why we can’t get monthly billing, that’s of grave concern to me and the citizens out there,” Rowland said. “A handwritten list would probably be the most practical. The drivers would know which houses they’re picking up.”

According to Horne, part of the problem, and many of the problems also disturbing the city's finance office, is database technology that isn't up to par. The list of who uses solid waste services cannot be reconciled enough for the city to proceed with billing the flat monthly fee.

“If we have 5 to 10 percent errors per month, it is an administrative nightmare. There’s not enough staff in the city to carry it out,” Horne said.  

Horne said the city has been looking at a business plan to approach a solution.

Rowland asserted the solid waste issues are also tied into the sewer bill collection, which has left the city with $3.5 million in delinquent or unpaid sewer bills.

“All of this will end when we can bill monthly,” Rowland said. “If we’ve got to spend $200,000 to start getting $3.5 million in, that’s chump change.  We need to look at it and face up to it. If that’s what it takes, we’ll have to do it.”

According to Horne, Kinser will compile a report of what equipment and personnel is needed to solve the database problem. This item will be revisited during the August CSC meeting.

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