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Garden Grove City Council members decided it’s time to create a better process for residents to dispute trash bills with the city’s contracted waste hauler, Republic Services, after two people told officials last week they were improperly billed for hundreds of dollars.

At a meeting last Wednesday, a landlord and homeowner said they had no other option but to dispute the charges to council members directly, in public.

“I got a statement from Republic Services saying that I owe $590,” Susan Mendez, a Garden Grove homeowner, said at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I got this thing, and I was like ‘What is this? I know I’ve been paying my bill. How come I got this?’ For two weeks I’ve been calling and asking … They had no answer.”

Susan Mendez, a Garden Grove homeowner

Mendez also complained about having to attend the council meeting in order to contest the billing.

“I relieved a delinquent solid waste disposal fee for a little bit less than $500,” Kaitlyn Dinh, who owns a rental property in Garden Grove, said at the council meeting. “The letter told me to come here today to address my concerns … Now I’m stuck with this bill that I have to pay.” 

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It stoked concern that night in one council member, George Brietigam, who said although only two speakers were present to contest their bills, more people across the city were likely struggling with the same problem.

“There needs to be a way for these people to dispute charges without having to come to a city council meeting and not even get any feedback,” Council member Brietigam said during the meeting. “That doesn’t seem fair … This is low-hanging fruit. We need to fix this.”

City staff also said publicly that Republic Services’ notices are only provided in one language, causing concern for non-English speakers across the diverse city and prompting guidance on Wednesday to include other languages in the notices.

Brietigam’s colleagues ended up agreeing to intervene and create a billing dispute process, voting unanimously to make several changes to a resolution that night which on a periodic basis imposes liens on properties with late trash payments.

The council directed staff to work with Republic Services to address any pending protests and to look into the creation of a dispute process for residents who contest late charges.

Council members also directed city staff to work with Republic to develop billings and notices in a host of different languages.

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According to the staff report, Republic Services bills customers quarterly. 

If a billing is not paid, a reminder is mailed to the individual who is responsible for the service. In addition, if a tenant does not pay for the service, the landlord is notified of non-payment 30 days prior to the public hearing. 

The original resolution says the city can impose liens on properties for refuse collection and disposal service bills that are delinquent for 60 days or more, following notice and a public hearing. 

Delinquent charges for refuse collection and disposal in the city totaled more than $464,000 for the last fiscal year.

Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC News Intern. Contact her at ahicks@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.

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