UPDATE from Friday 2/12
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- In cash-strapped Huntington, home and business owners owe more than $4 million in delinquent refuse fees and penalties.
But we've found collecting that money is no easy task. The city is limited in what it can do to collect overdue trash fees, and city officials can not stop collecting someone's trash if that citizen doesn't pay.
City Finance Director Deron Runyon says the list has no teeth. State health laws prohibit cutting off garbage collection for non-payers, and Huntington can not penalize like, say, Ashland, Ky., where trash and water fees are collected together.
"If you don't pay your combined bill, they can cut off your water," Runyon says.
But many who pay their fees on time say it's not fair. Big Green Properties is a major player landlord around Marshall's campus. It's also a major player on the delinquent fees list, owing thousands.
Runyon says the city will continue to put liens on non-payment property, but that doesn't help fill city coffers. He said Huntington needs new legislation to give the city the power to sell liens and collect cash.
Another major player on the delinquent fees list is Huntington's sanitation superintendent Glen Garrett who declined to be interviewed. He owes more than $3,500 to his own department.
Runyon says the city's Columbus, Ohio-based collection agency hauled in $1.5 million dollars in delinquent fees last year. He also says making these lists public has prompted more payment activity.
But city leaders say they need more legal clout to really punish and collect for non payment. Huntington leaders also say they'll review the delinquent fee lists to see how many city employees are on it -- then proceed from there.
Their names even are appearing in the local paper and the city's Web site.
The city on Tuesday released more than 2,000 delinquent accounts greater than $500 dollars. The accounts on the list represent about 12 percent of all municipal fee accounts.
Deron Runyon, the city's finance director, says those accounts total more than $4 million and publishing names is effective.
The city is allowing those who are delinquent to make a payment plan. If the city isn't contacted within 90 days, however, they will place liens on properties