Trash is piling up at Meadow Trace Apartments.
The tenants of the 101 units have garbage piling up and overflowing the bins and dumpsters. With the facility at 92 percent capacity, it adds up in a hurry. Residents are complaining about the smell, roach infestation and rodents that weren’t there before.
Meadow Trace owner and co-manager Laurie Allard said she’s prepared to explain her side of the situation to her tenants.
“The last couple years have been hard, but MUB (Pryor Municipal Utility Board) has been great about it. I’ll be honest, we’re routinely 30-45 days late making our payment but we pay the five percent late fee without questions,” said Allard. “Well around the end of April, we realized our trash wasn’t being picked up.”
She said Bill Dinsmore, owner of Pryor Waste & Recycling called to inform her she was six months past due paying the trash bill. At that point, Allard said she went to the MUB office seeking an explanation. She said she was told that MUB’s only connection with Dinsmore is they do his billing.
According to MUB, it collects the money and turns it over to the city, then the city pays the trash service under contract which is Pryor Waste & Recycling.
“Where is my money going?” Allard said she asked MUB and Pryor Mayor Jimmy Tramel.
Allard said her attorney was brought in to ask the same question. Allard said she was led in circles, being told by one party that she was paid in full and by others that she was six months behind.
“After all this go around trying to figure out who to talk to, the mayor told me that Mr. Dinsmore won’t empty my trash until MUB is paid off, which I told him I’d done,” said Allard. “During all of this, the mayor said he’s going to sue because it’s a health hazard.”
Allard said she has called Dinsmore six times during this process, and even went to his office in person, and has yet to speak to him. She’s left messages, she said, but has never heard back.
Allard said she never received a notice her business was delinquent or a notice that trash service would be discontinued.
She said she called Tramel and asked why she had not received a cut-off notice.
“I told him what city ordinance to look at. He went and looked and called me right back and said it wasn’t there. I told him it was under the garbage and refuse section and have yet to hear back from him,” said Allard.
Allard, who has been the owner of Meadow Trace for just over four years, said the collection is handled in such a way that nobody has to take responsibility for anything.
“I cannot get anyone to talk to me to help straighten it out. If he’s not contracted with MUB, should he not be billed separately?” said Allard. “Things keep getting passed off to other people. They’re spinning me in circles, they’re expert spin doctors.”
Allard said on top of the battle over payment, she was told that Dinsmore would not pick up her trash until her entire complex started using dumpsters rather than the existing trash cans.
She said her family has owned Meadow Trace since the early 90s and dumpsters have never been required.
“We didn’t know we owed anything and even if we did we can’t pay Dinsmore directly,” said Allard. “I’m a single mom. I have no husband and these guys are picking on me,” said Allard.
“The mayor insinuated to me that he didn’t care about these families, he just wants them out. I’m stuck in a circle of good ol’ boys politics but this isn’t our first row with him.”
She said times have been hard, that the charge for trash service has recently gone up to $1,800 per month. That combined with the five percent late fees for MUB, the additional cost of pest control and the cost of gas to dump the garbage themselves, making payment is even more difficult.
“I don’t know the mayor from Adam but it makes me paranoid, thinking they don’t want us here. We do what we can,” said Allard.
The tenants each receive a bill that is itemized to show the cost of rent and utilities. The utility portion goes to MUB to pay utilities only. The remainder is left to Allard to distribute between water, sewer and basic cable
Bill Dinsmore, owner of Pryor Waste & Recycling has a protocol in place for all accounts.
He said in this case, service was discontinued because of delinquent payment. He said it was suggested that the facility also update their existing system.
Meadow Trace currently has two dumpsters and each building has individual trash cans in brick enclosures.
The Environmental Protection Agency suggests a standardized system of containers, which would be cheaper for the facility. Any system in which trash collectors have to transport the trash by hand creates a liability, usually in the form of individuals being pricked by needles or cut by glass. The EPA says a more centralized system is also more environmentally friendly. EPA’s policy states, “all solid waste shall be stored in such a manner that they do not constitute a fire, health or safety hazard, provide food or harborage for vectors and shall be contained or bundled so as to not result in spillage.” It further states that any waste containers that could contain food waste should be securely stored in a covered or closed retainer which is non-absorbent, leak proof, durable, easily cleaned and designed for safe handling. In regards to safe handling their policy states, “it shall be capable of being serviced without the collector coming into physical contact with the waste.”
MUB is a billing agency for Pryor Waste & Recycling.
Pryor used to have a city-run trash collection service, but when that changed, for the convenience of the community billing remained the same. MUB receives the payment and both parties involved (MUB and Pryor Trash) collect their allotted amount.
MUB has a standard policy regarding billing and termination of service for delinquency that is available to anyone upon request. The policy says utility bills are due the first day of the month and are considered delinquent if not paid by the tenth day. A five percent penalty shall be applied if the bill is not paid by the delinquency date. Should utility bills not be paid by the fourth Tuesday of the month the customer shall be subect to termination of service. The week prior to that, a notice of termination of service is mailed to the customer and will serve as the final notice of delinquency before termination.
For confidentiality reasons, MUB could not disclose the particulars of Meadow Trace’s account. Allard, however, said that being six months behind in trash collection payments would be roughly $9,800 and MUB’s portion would be roughly $30,000.
“Tenants pay their bills on time every month and should expect their landlord to do the same,” said Tramel. “If she pays her bill, we pick up her trash, it’s that simple.”
He says outstanding balances and delinquent accounts impact more than just the single customer. He said it’s no different than someone stealing from Wal-Mart; when people steal, the company is forced to raise the prices for everyone to compensate.
“If the garbage is piled up, at Meadow Trace or anywhere else, I’ll shut it down for health reasons,” said Tramel. “It attracts bugs and rodents, the standing water trapped in the bins causes a health hazard. It smells and it’s rotting as weather heats up.”
“I have no bone with her personally, I’d have a problem with anyone creating a health hazard for my community,” he said. “It’s nothing new, pay on time or suffer the consequences.”
Tramel said there is both a city ordinance and a state statute relating to the subject. He referred to state statute 50-1 which says that “a nuisance is unlawfully doing an act, or omitting to perform a duty which annoys, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, or safety of others.”
Further, 50-2 says a public nuisance is one which affects at the same time an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons.”
The statute later states, in section 50-16, cities and towns shall have the right and power to determine what constitutes a nuisance within their city limits. The city, it says, also has the power summarily to abate any such nuisance after notice to the owner has been given and opportunity for the owner to be heard.
When asked if she would be willing to show her receipts to show payments for the last six months Allard said she was not given any, that she only had the run-sheet of who owed what for the month of May. Allard said she has two co-managers who help in collecting money from the tenants but that as owner the responsibility of paying bills falls solely to her.“We’re not going to put up with this, the tenants deserve to know where their money is going,” said Tramel. “And they deserve better living conditions that this.”