Staring late next month, Townsend will stop picking up trash from residents who fail to pay their monthly bill on time.

Staring late next month, Townsend will stop picking up trash from residents who fail to pay their monthly bill on time.

Townsend Town Council voted unanimously last week to discontinue weekly trash and recycling pick up at homes where the property owners are at least 60 days behind in their payments. Town Councilman Joel Esler was not present for the vote.

The new law takes effect immediately, meaning some homes will lose their trash collection starting March 31.

"Trash collection and late payments have been big issues for the town and I think, overall, we've finally gotten it under control now from where it was previously," Mayor Jermaine Hatton said. "We've talked about taking this step for a while and now it's finally going to happen."

Townsend Town Council had voted last year to discontinue service at homes that had not paid their trash bill for at least 30 days.

However, the town held off on enforcing the new rule until it could clean up its multiple – and sometimes conflicting – ordinances on trash collection.

"Previously, we were also under the assumption that were unable to discontinue service under our contract with our trash collection provider," Hatton said. "But we've since worked that out to where we can provide them with a list of homes where collections can be shut off."

Hatton said the new ordinance provides clarity to the rules and allows extra time for residents to make payments.

"A person could miss one month because they simply forgot, so we added an extra 30 days to the new ordinance," he said. "Thirty days also would have been an accounting and administrative nightmare."

Fewer than 50 homes in Townsend collectively owe less than $125,000 in late trash payments now, a decline from last summer when the total amount owed was nearly $190,000.

The town's issue with overdue payments has been simmering for years.

Since 1982, Townsend has required every household to pay for weekly trash service, regardless of whether that service is actually used.

But until now, the town has not discontinued trash collection when residents fail to pay their bills.

It did, however, charge trash scofflaws a monthly late fee equal to 10 percent of the balance owed, which Hatton said tended to make it even harder for struggling families to catch up on their overdue payments.

In 2010, those late fees were capped at $120 per calendar year and residents who enter payment plans with the town no longer incur late fees, unless they stop making payments.

Residents have previously complained about the town's mandatory trash collection rules, arguing they would rather skip the $25 monthly bill in favor of paying the $7.50-per-vehicle fee at the Delaware Solid Waste Authority's Pine Tree Corners Transfer Station less than two miles east of Townsend Town Hall.

Hatton said the new ordinance would not allow residents to avoid the town's mandatory trash collection service by simply stopping payments.

"Residents won't be billed the monthly trash fee if their service is discontinued," he said. "But it's not an out, because failing to pay the overdue amount could result in a lien on their property, while billing and trash collection will resume once the overdue amount has been paid."