READING, Pa. - One city is turning trash into treasure as it continues to cash in on those who fail to pay what they owe.
According to Portnoff Law Associates in Norristown, Chester County, the law firm has collected more than $2.1 million in back trash and recycling fees on behalf of Reading.
That averages out to more than $1 million a year since 2009, when the city first turned over delinquent accounts to the law firm.
"We owe it to all the citizens to make sure we've collected all the revenue possible in order to maintain service," said Carl Geffken, Reading's Managing Director.
The money collected by Portnoff Law Associates goes directly back into the city's solid waste fund.
"This is money that was owed for prior years to support the operation of the recycling efforts of the city in prior years," Geffken explained.
Portnoff expects to collect an additional $100,00 by year's end, bringing the two-year total to $2.25 million, about half of what is owed to the city in unpaid trash and recycling fees.
The collection service comes at no cost to the city.
Residents who receive notices get 30 days to pay, penalty free.
"If they do not reply and pay their account within that period of time, then Portnoff will continue pursuing a delinquency and they do add their fees as well," Geffken said.
In recent years, city officials have stepped up efforts to collect the millions of dollars owed.
"We do go after all delinquent accounts, especially our largest ones, which would be property taxes," said Geffken.
Next year, the county will take over the collection of back taxes.
In the meantime, Geffken believes cracking down on all delinquencies sets a precedent.
"When people understand that you will go after the fees that are owed, there's a tendency for people to make sure they do pay it," said Geffken.
Reading residents do stand to get a break on their trash and recycling fees. According to next year's budget proposal, those using city recycling and trash services could save up to $12 for the year.
Allentown, PA 18102