Making the Call

To collect about $30 million in bad debt, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin has begun making personal phone calls to companies that have not paid their sanitation bills since the city started billing and collecting for services more than three years ago.

To date, Franklin has reached 11 of the 25 biggest debtors and has turned what she's learned over to the city's revenue department, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The sanitation department, which is approximately $10 million in debt, sent out quarterly sanitation bills last May, but only about 10 percent of Atlanta residents bothered to pay on time, according to the city. This prompted Franklin to make collection calls herself.

The list of sanitation debtors includes mostly rental property owners and large landholders with several accounts.

The city is facing the same economic fallout that is occurring nationwide, which also could explain Franklin's involvement. In June, the city council voted 8-to-7 to fire 66 of the city's sanitation workers in July rather than raise property taxes to keep their jobs. Council members have argued that the department is sub-standard because trash is not picked up properly.