City garbage deposits questioned by auditor
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
An audit report for fiscal 2004-05 has raised the question of whether the city of Hartselle should have custody of garbage collection deposits collected from about 1990 to July 2001 when it is no longer in the garbage collection business.
In a management letter submitted recently by the auditing firm of Tucker, Scott, Brand and Wates, the existence of garbage deposits was confirmed and a recommendation was made to investigate and refund all deposits being held.
The issue was first raised by the auditing firm after it conducted its first audit for the city following fiscal 2003-04, according to Rita Lee, city clerk/treasurer.
"The finding was brought to the attention of City Attorney Larry Madison and he researched it. His advice was that the deposits could be remitted to the unclaimed funds section of the State Revenue Department with council approval. Nothing further was done and the auditor picked it up again this year," she said.
Lee said a search of the records, with confirmation from former City Clerk Betty Parker, shows that the city began collecting a $5 garbage deposit from newcomer residents around 1990. They were entered into the general fund. The practice was discontinued July 1, 2001, when the city turned over garbage pickup, including collections, to Morgan County Environmental Services under a four-year contract.
"I was told by Ms. Parker that the deposit was needed to make up for the losses the city experienced when people left town without paying for garbage pickup," Lee said.. "She also said the deposit was refunded when a customer in good standing moved out of town, and that practice was continued after the county assumed the garbage operation.
"I have discussed this with the auditor and pointed out that the city council is now considering a proposal for the city to implement its own garbage pickup and collection service," Lee added. "He has said it's all right to hold up on taking any action on the matter pending their decision."