BENTON HARBOR — Questions about how much money the city is paying to have illegal dump sites cleaned up resulted in Benton Harbor city commissioners not approving paying any of the city’s bills Monday.
A special meeting has been called for 6 p.m. today at city hall to again consider approving the payment of the city’s bills.
On Monday, Commissioner Edward Isom said he wants to know why two companies have been paid thousands of dollars since May to remove trash from illegal dump sites in the city. He said he has driven around the city and taken photos of illegal dump sites that still exist.
“I just want to know, is it working or are we just going to keep paying money?” he said.
City officials have said in the past that as soon as an illegal dump site is cleaned up, it’s full of junk in just a couple of weeks.
In March, Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis declared a war on the illegal dumping of trash, saying he needs help from residents to catch the illegal dumpers. He said at the time that his officers have started ticketing illegal dumpers and taking them to court.
On Monday’s list of bills was $6,750 to be paid to Fast Act Junk Removal and Dumpster Services. The bill listed 10 payments of $675 each for “Junk Removal of Dump Sites.”
On the Oct. 7 list of bills to be paid was $10,125 to Fast Act to clean up 15 sites, and $14,965 to Hadley and Sons Lawn Development to remove junk from 10 sites.
Interim City Manager Ellis Mitchell said the city will continue to pay to clean up the dump sites as long at it can.
“They are physically removing items (but) people are still dumping,” he said.
Commissioners said they want to see a list of all the dump sites that have been cleaned up.
Mayor Marcus Muhammad said the city has to keep an eye on how much money it spends because when the 2019-20 budget was approved, there was only a $16,818 surplus.
“I’m just reminding all of us to keep an eye on the red and black line,” he said.
When contacted by phone, Matthew Moses, one of the owners of Fast Act in Niles, said his company has removed junk from all over the city. He said they started the trash removal under former City Manager Darwin Watson and have continued under Mitchell.
He said Watson and then Mitchell have given them a list of sites to be cleaned up.
“We have everything documented,” he said. “We took photos and have receipts.”
However, he said the dumping has continued, even on the sites his company has cleaned up.
“There’s a massive amount of illegal dumping that’s been going on in the city for years,” he said.
On Monday, some commissioners also said they took issue with some of the bills being paid before they are approved by commissioners. Monday’s bill list showed that almost $87,000 of the nearly $900,000 in bills had been released early, including the payment to Fast Act.
Mitchell said some bills need to be paid in a timely fashion.
Commissioner Duane Seats said that bills need to be approved by commissioners before they are paid.
Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege