Why Oklahoma City Wants the State to Help Fix Its Trash Problem

  • Logan Layden

hermitsmoores / Flickr

In the more rural parts of Oklahoma City there are thousands of residents who don’t pay for trash pickup, and they never have.

Even in 1994, when public health concerns drove the city council to add more than 10,000 rural homes to trash collection routes, many residents started a boycott that’s still going almost 20 years later, as The Oklahoman‘s William Crum reports:

Upset residents brought 105 new trash carts to city hall Aug. 30, 1994, to demonstrate their displeasure with being charged $10.49 per month for weekly trash pickup.

They said they were being forced to pay, whether they wanted the service or not.

“Boycotting,” [Debbie Ragan, utilities spokeswoman] said, “included refusal to pay.”

Crum reports there are about 2,500 customers who don’t get city water, but whose utility accounts are overdue. Almost 1,000 account holders owe more than $1,000, while about 150 customers owe more than $10,000.

The total cost of the trash boycott to Oklahoma City? $5.5 million.

The city just can’t seem to resolve the problem on its own. Threatening to cut off a home’s water is the usual route, but these customers don’t get water from the city. Ragan told the paper OKC wouldn’t remove the trash carts for fear of garbage being scattered around. Even turning to collection agencies hasn’t gotten the job done.

Now, Oklahoma City wants the state legislature to step in:

A bill first introduced in the 2013 legislature would give cities authority to place a lien on property when utility bills are four or more months overdue.

… If the cost of utility service, the city’s expenses and interest charges remain unpaid, they could be collected with overdue taxes and other charges when the property sells.

The bill didn’t get a full vote in the House in 2013, but the next legislative session starts Feb. 3.