Article Comment 

City hires agency to collect unpaid court fines, debts


Tim Pratt



Residents of Starkville with unpaid debts to the city might soon find a collection agency calling.  


The Starkville Board of Aldermen on Tuesday approved a contract with American Municipal Services, a debt collection agency out of Carrollton, Texas, to collect any unpaid debts to the city. Residents who owe the Municipal Court or Starkville Electric Department, for instance, could be contacted by AMS. 


The city already issues warrants for arrest against court defendants who have unpaid fines, but utility customers only get letters and invoices, City Clerk Markeeta Outlaw said. 


The contract with American Municipal Services allows the company to contact debtors by phone only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. No defendant is to be phoned on Sundays, according to the contract.  


All contact between AMS and each debtor is to be made by phone or mail. No personal contacts are allowed. 


The city will still issue warrants for arrest against defendants with unpaid fines.  


When residents do pay their debts, the city will receive them in their entirety. An extra 25 percent collection fee will be added to each debt, which the city will pay to AMS for their services. The arrangement will cost the city no money. 


"It''s like the city is getting a collection department, but it''s free," Outlaw said.  


The city has used debt collection agencies in the past, but with those, the city kept only 70-75 percent of the total collected. The debt collection agencies, meanwhile, kept the other 25-30 percent. 


Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker was concerned because he has heard horror stories about collection agencies in the past and said he doesn''t want AMS to give the city a "bad name." 


"I just want to make sure we do a good job of keeping up with this collection agency," Parker said. "We have to keep an eye on them ..." 


Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins also was concerned about potential collection practices. He wanted to make sure the city receives regular reports and invoices from AMS.  


The collection agency agreed to invoice the city on or about the 10th of each month for the previous month''s collections, according to the contract.  


In other business, aldermen Tuesday made a commitment to use Golden Triangle Regional Airport as the city''s primary source of air travel. 


"We need to be setting an example that we are behind the airport and we want to see it succeed in the future," Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said. 


If the use of air service is required for authorized city-sponsored and city-funded travel, travel will commence from and return to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport "whenever possible," according to an amendment to the city''s travel ordinance approved Tuesday by aldermen. 


Greater Starkville Development Partnership President Jon Maynard said the board''s action "sends a message" that the city supports the airport. 


"This airport is a real portal to the international community," Maynard said. "It''s very important that we keep that airport going." 


Exceptions to the new policy may be made if the overall cost of travel, including airfare, mileage, parking and other fees from the Golden Triangle Regional Airport exceed $200 of comparable expenses from an airport within "reasonable distance" of the city of Starkville. Additionally, if the flight connections from the Golden Triangle Regional Airport cause an undue delay and expense, then travel by the more convenient method is authorized, according to the ordinance amendment. All requests for exceptions must be approved by the Board of Aldermen, department head or, in the case of travel by the department head, the mayor. 


In other business, Whitney Hilton, chairperson for Starkville''s commission on disability, presented the city''s "Advocate of the Quarter" award to David Bouchard. The Starkville High School senior completed his Eagle Scout project recently, during which he put up 60-70 directional signs at the high school. Bouchard is blind and said the signs, which included Braille, were to make the school "a little less confusing."




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Reader Comments

Article Comment Amazed commented at 12/2/2009 12:16:00 PM:

Collection agencies are a waste of time and I'm sure that once people know an agency is involved, they will rush to make their payments.

As for the airport - it's cheaper to travel from anywhere except GTR so I see this as a non-issue.

It's nice to see the board doing busy work.


Article Comment bb commented at 12/2/2009 2:59:00 PM:

Well we support the local airport but pay a Texas company to collect debt payments.


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