BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — Bristol, Virginia City Manager Randall Eads claims Bristol Virginia Utilities owes the city tens of thousands of dollars in trash fees.
In April, Eads said the City Council passed an ordinance raising monthly residential collection rates from $22 to $33.
He said the ordinance took effect May 31st, meaning BVU collected the increased trash fee for the month of June.
Eads said the city expected to be paid $70 thousand in additional revenue in July for June operations.
The problem, according to Eads, is that payment never came.
He said the city didn’t know of the problem until July 31st and a meeting with BVU leadership in early August ended with no resolution.
On Monday, Eads told the public and the City Council during a called meeting that the conflict still stands.
“This leads me to three possible conclusions,” Eads said. “BVU either owes the city approximately $70,000 dollars. Two, every piece of documentation that we have in our possession from BVU, including their own audit of financial statements are wrong. Or three, BVU has no idea of what and when they were billing for and what and when they should pay the city when those funds are received.”
Eads said the city has yet to receive documentation from BVU that proves him wrong.
BVU sent News Channel 11 this statement:
This afternoon, at a specially-called City Council meeting, Randall Eads, Bristol, Virginia City Manager/Attorney, provided comments to the Council. Unfortunately, BVU management was neither invited to attend the meeting nor given any advance notice of the presentation or topic to be discussed. It was not until the commencement of the meeting that BVU learned the focus was to discuss the City’s trash collection fees. BVU Authority acts only in the capacity of billing agent for this service and does not participate in the setting of trash collection rates. During the meeting, Mr. Eads discussed his belief that BVU failed to transfer to the City the proper amount of trash fees collected from residents of Bristol, Virginia. The concern was raised following the most recent in a series of trash fee increases by the Bristol, Virginia City Council – raising rates to $33 each month.
BVU has reviewed this issue extensively with legal counsel, external auditors, federal-regulator, TVA, as well as members of the BVU Authority Board of Directors. BVU has found no discrepancy in the trash collection fee billing or subsequent payments to the City for such services in 2019. As the City’s billing agent, BVU cannot remit trash collection fees to the City prior to BVU’s own receipt of payment from the customers. BVU has discussed this issue with City representatives at length through communications and an in-person meeting. City staff has confirmed BVU correctly implemented the most recent trash fee increase.
Following a brief review of today’s presentation from the City Manager/Attorney, it appears the City and BVU agree on several key factors, including:
-The trash collection rate increase of $11 per month was effective on June 1, 2019.
-The rate increase is billed one month in arrears – after the customer’s use of such service.
-BVU statements for residential customers in Bristol, Virginia, printed on or after July 1, 2019, were correctly billed at $33 per month.
The disagreement remains the amount to be paid to the Treasurer of the City of Bristol, Virginia, for July 2019. Without offering supporting facts, the City alleges such payment should have been approximately $70,000 higher than the amount remitted by BVU. The City continues to disregard the fact that BVU did not bill or collect the increased rate in June 2019. BVU’s billing process was consistent with discussions and guidance to the City approximately 60 days in advance. Unfortunately, the City and BVU remain in disagreement regarding this payment and its potential impact to BVU customers. BVU looks forward to the City sharing any pertinent financial planning documentation and their basis for believing the City was underpaid.
BVU is sensitive to the financial challenges the City faces as it continues to operate its Solid Waste Collection Division and landfill. However, BVU customers cannot be asked to subsidize these operations with funds that have not yet been collected from residents of Bristol, Virginia.
Additionally, BVU has offered to transfer the billing of trash collection fees to the City on numerous occasions. Currently, the City invoices non-residential customers for trash collection, but has thus far declined to accept responsibility for billing their residential trash collection customers.
At the BVU Authority Board of Directors Meeting slated for November 1, 2019, BVU auditor, Blackburn, Childers & Steagall, PLC, plans to discuss this matter with the Board, legal counsel and BVU management.
The allegations raised at today’s meeting do not impact any BVU customers located in Washington and Scott Counties of Virginia or Sullivan County, Tennessee. This issue is specific to only qualifying residential customers within the Bristol, Virginia City limits.
The City Manager/Attorney has previously threatened to file suit against BVU. Consistent with sound legal advice, BVU does not plan to comment further while under threat of litigation.
Questions or concerns regarding the City’s trash collection fee should be directed to the Public Works department of Bristol, Virginia, at 276-645-7380.-BVU
Eads and Bristol, Virginia Mayor Neal Osborne said it’s important that the city and BVU maintain a good working relationship.
“I understand that after today’s meeting that may be more tenuous than it ever has been before,” Eads said.
Eads said he hopes his presentation at Monday’s City Council meeting will bring management back to the table.
If they’re unable to come to a resolution, he said the BVU Board and the City Council will likely pick up the discussion.
Eads said the city is not considering legal action at this time.