The City of San Fernando will continue to place liens on properties that have delinquent trash bills.
The city council passed a resolution at its July 16 meeting authorizing the legal action.
Since May of 2016, San Fernando came to an agreement with Republic Services, the city’s trash collection contractor, “as a matter of public health,” said Francela Aguilar, Republic Services municipal manager.
Previously, Republic Services would just stop collecting trash from properties that had delinquent bills, which then posed serious health and safety issues.
Now, if a customer doesn’t respond to two notices of delinquency and hasn’t paid their bill for 90 days, Republic Services will submit the account to the City while continuing to pick up their trash.
As a result, the company provided city administrators with a list of 356 delinquent residential accounts as of May 31, 2018. After notices were sent to those account holders, and also to property owners, 116 were brought up to date or have arranged a payment plan.
There are still 240 outstanding delinquent accounts, which have until Aug. 5 to be resolved. If the accounts aren’t resolved, action begins to place property liens.
While the punitive action appears to be working, it is still controversial, as property owners aren’t always the account owners and may be renting to tenants who aren’t paying their bills. It then places responsibility on the owner of the property to resolve the matter with their tenant, which can possibly lead to an eviction.
The City of San Fernando however, claims authority to collect delinquent trash fees based on state health and safety codes and a local city ordinance, which established a procedure before property liens are placed.
In that process, a notice is mailed to both the account holders and property owners, with a public notice for a public hearing giving account holders and property owners an opportunity to dispute any discrepancies.
A public hearing was held on July 16 and only one resident, Mary Mendoza, showed up to express dissatisfaction with trying to resolve an unpaid trash bill.
Mendoza complained that after making payments on a past-due bill, she still was receiving an outstanding balance. After calling Republic Services to dispute this, she learned that her payments were going toward future bills, not her outstanding balance which was accruing late payment charges.
She also said the company’s website is not user-friendly.
“It’s not an easy system to work with. And if I hadn’t brought it to their attention, I would have paid my bills and [still] would probably had a $500 balance. But I might not be the only one. And if people are having difficulty making their payments, this could be one of the reasons,“ Mendoza said. The issues with her account have now been resolved.
Measure A Back On the Ballot
In other action, the council found common ground on the language that will appear on the November ballot asking voters to extend Measure A.
The council had already adopted language for the measure at their June 4 meeting, but was not satisfied. So council members Robert Gonzales and Joel Fajardo were appointed to form an ad hoc committee to compose alternatives.
Following public comment, the council discussed the language for the measure for more than an hour and a half, with the main debate being whether it should mention that some of the funds generated by the half-percent sales tax would go toward wages and wage increases.
Gonzales argued that the phrase “wage increases” should be omitted since voters would probably be less inclined to vote in favor of extending the measure if it is included. Vice Mayor Antonio Lopez agreed with him.
Fajardo and Councilmember Jaime Soto responded that the phrase should be included to be as transparent as possible because funds generated by the tax would be used for that purpose.
Finance Director Nick Kimball indicated that approximately 60 to 65 percent of all City revenues are used for personnel costs.
In the end, the council approved the language for the Measure’s Title proposed by Fajardo and verbiage by Gonzales, which was amended by Soto to include the word “wages.”
Fajardo later credited the consensus to Soto saying, “I was somewhat surprised to see that Mr. Soto actually helped to bridge the divide between all of us. It’s somewhat of a rarity, but it did happen and we witnessed it.”
Soto, however, was not present to hear the compliment since he left the meeting early.
State Sen. Robert Hertzberg attended the council meeting to announce that he has secured $5 million to reconstruct the City’s Reservoir 4, which was cracked by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. These funds will allow the reservoir to be filled to capacity.
Public Works Director and City engineer Yazdan Emrani said he is going to apply for a FEMA Hazard Mitigation grant that could provide additional funding for that project.