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Gwinnett Residents Could See Hike in Cost of Trash Collection

County warns outcome of court case could result in increased costs for county residents.

By Sharon Swanepoel

The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments by attorneys for who is taking on Gwinnett County about its way of collecting payment on sanitation services. At issue is the fact sanitation fees are collected on tax bills, something Mesteller claims is illegal and unconstitutional.

Should the county bill sanitation fees on property tax bills? Are you glad the county now provides trash service or did you prefer being able to choose your own provider? Let us know in the comments.

The outcome of Mesteller’s appeal won’t be known for several weeks. However, even if it fails, state Rep. Brett Harrell, whose district includes Snellville and parts of Loganville and Grayson, is also taking on the issue. He is re-introducing legislation in January to prevent municipalities using tax bills to collect anything other than taxes. Harrell said his reason for re-introducing House Bill 291 is not opposition to any particular program, just with the billing mechanism.

“In Georgia, we have non-judicial foreclosure; so, the lien is placed on your home and you are not even afforded an opportunity to stand before a judge and plead your case - again for non-taxes,” Harrell said, adding he had 60 co-signers to the bill when originally introduced. He acknowledges that he does face opposition. “The associations of counties and cities representing corporate government rather than the citizens of those counties and cities are the primary opponents at the capitol. Around the state, the opponents are those elected and staff members that are more concerned with revenue to the corporate government rather than protecting those they serve.”

Gwinnett County officials, however, say that if either Mesteller’s lawsuit or Harrell’s legislation is successful, the outcome might not be favorable for county taxpayers. Joe Sorenson, communications director for Gwinnett County, warns that if the county were unable to bill for solid waste and recovery services via the property tax billing system, it would have to create a new billing system or significantly modify an existing one.

“Either option would increase costs,” Sorenson said. “Additionally, the payment rate for property taxes is about 99 percent. Other billing payment rates are significantly lower and the costs associated with non-payment would become a liability for the remainder of the customers. Just as the case with any business, the cost of uncollectible bills has to be included in the cost of operation and the rate structure."

Sorenson said it was unfortunate, but those who plan their bills faithfully wind up paying for those who do not.

"The higher the rate of non-payment, the greater the burden on those who pay,” Sorenson said.

GregRodgers November 13, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Again...this is why we no longer have Beaudreau and his stupid arrogant "I know whats best for you ideas". This is the BOC from 2008's foul puppy. While they were giving sweet land deals they were sticking us with garbage deals. This could have simply been avoided by allowing homeowners to choose. I fully understand that there was an illegal dumping issue, but no look how much this is costing us and how many headaches this has caused. As Republicans...the BOC should have stayed out of our business and let us feel FREE to carry on our own business. Until then...let the nightmare sparked by Beaudreau, Bannister, Kennerly, and Lassetter continue!!.... YAY..... for US I tell you!!!
Kristi Reed (Editor) November 13, 2012 at 09:55 PM
My feelings on this matter are no secret, but I'll say it again -- I am perfectly capable of choosing my own trash provider and was enjoying lower prices and better service before Gwinnett County got in my business. As for the illegal dumping, deal with the people who are doing the dumping -- don't punish the many for the sins of the few.
North Georgia Weather November 13, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Amen to both of you!
Dacula O November 14, 2012 at 01:33 AM
We've lived in several cities north and south of Georgia and never worried about trash collection bills. It was one more petty bill to sort out, calling to find the best deal, and havng three different trucks driving in our cul-de-sac. Having it part of the tax bill simplifies my life, one less thing to worry about. Sounds like its semantics whether its a tax or a county fee.
M.K. OSBORNE November 15, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Its amazing that this Garbage plan went into effect during and before the settlement with the cities on services and the guy who pushed it so hard was also the guy who messed up the original agreement which caused the delay . Did the county leverage this as a service to reduce the cities cut of tax monies ?
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew November 15, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Funny how the citizens get to "pay more" when our elected leaders screw up without so much as an apology. (Why you would think we were all mayors of a small city within the county limits or something) The county should remove the fee from the tax bill, otherwise its a tax and should be treated by all as such. The biggest problem I see is that by calling it a "core government" service, it is NOW exempted from any FUTURE requirement for a competitive bidding process and can be sole sourced with NO voter recourse. This is perfectly legal regardless of any VERBAL promises made - if you remember, the BoC clearly stated for the record that public bidding would occur, it didn't. The shining example of FUBAR such as it is. The county has tipped its hand concerning our costs because of the senior discount handed out in 2012 for a small subset during an election year paid for by OVERCHARGING others in the community, so the county cash-flow rate would remain constant. There will be NO real reason to reduce the expense citizens pay going forward because it would reduce revenues to the general fund. I can't wait till they overhaul the cable tv franchise agreements, I hear the cable truck traffic is wreaking havoc on our roads... The opportunity to pay a YEAR in advance for "housewives from anywhere" may be too good to pass up.
Sheila A. November 15, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I like the Gwinnett takeover of the trash pickup. I live in a small subdivision that was being daily forced to endure any number of trash haulers running in and out of the subdivision. These massive trucks stink, ruin the roads and fly at top speed regardless of posted speed limits in the subdivision. Thankfully, I now have one hauler, with one truck for trash and one for recyclables rolling by my home on a designated day. I don't care if it is charged on the tax bill. Paying by the year for this service makes it easier for me and makes one less thing I have to take care of monthly....
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew November 16, 2012 at 05:24 AM
Yes that statement about trucks prematurely wearing out the secondary roads is quite intriguing. Perhaps the studies that were instrumental in making that determination could be posted. I don’t recall the county taking any action to enhance standards for future road development based on it and since fire apparatus is of similar or greater weight, it could be an issue if they aren’t tightened up. Besides if one day a week service was the goal, THAT could have been easily addressed under the original franchise agreement for FAR less legal cost and we could have kept choice of providers. As to the joy of not having to worry about paying for trash service, that certainly is a load off one’s hectic schedule until they realize exactly how much extra one is actually paying for that peace of mind. But in the meantime, just thank all your neighbors in a radius of 5 for 6 blocks from your home for chipping in to help give you that warm fuzzy feeling, because it is always better to give than receive… Gwinnett the new land of bumper to bumper condos.
Kristi Reed (Editor) November 16, 2012 at 10:43 AM
Don't even get me started on the cable issue ...
Sheila A. November 16, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Well R, I live in the country, no city yet claims us as their tax puppet. I built here 12 years ago and it WAS quiet and peaceful. But before the consolidation of the garbage pickup, you could hear huge noisy trucks racing into our subdivision all hours of the morning, afternoon and evening. No matter what you say about free choice, having one company service a subdivision makes total sense. We finally got the county to address the deplorable roads in our subdivision as the onslaught of heavy trucks over the course of 12 years had destroyed them. Personally, I think the school buses should have to pick up the kids at the entrance and not go letting them out door to door every day, but that is another matter. As for the "warm fuzzy feeling" that is not even a part of this discussion. Keep on point. My neighbors can't even seem to manage to get their trash bins off the street in 24 hours and for that matter, never were. And, there is not a condo in sight. For me, it is better to get everything working smoothly than to squabble over a few dollars. No matter what happens, there will always be people that loudly disagree with whatever is being done.... trash pickup, airport privatization, adding another stupid park in a small town at the taxpayers' expense, closing the new library.... the list is endless. However, sarcasm and personal attacks on others' viewpoints is petty and unproductive. In these uncertain times, I am interested in debating far greater issues.
M.K. OSBORNE November 16, 2012 at 04:21 PM
I think we should make everyone park in a parking lot and walk to they're houses . I think R has a valid point that we as citizens should not expect the government to solve all of our issues , they could have easily mapped out a plan that kept this service out of the government hands . This issue is totally about Gwinnett County getting into the trash business by contracting it out and dictating to the people.
Mr. B November 16, 2012 at 04:38 PM
You should try living on the main entrance street in a large subdivision. Those trucks that came by scattered throughout the week is sure better than the constant rumble on Fridays beginning at 6AM and continuing all day long.
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew November 17, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Shelia, Then let me be the first to formally welcome to the city of Gwinnett... BTW having others take care of business is indeed the condo frame of mind... (it's sure not Margarettaville) YOU don't have to physically live in one to foster the mindset - just work toward having others cover YOUR cost and responsibilities, not by giving fellow residents a chance or the CHOICE of volunteering first (HOA contract with haulers?) but by the force of government threat... Meanwhile, resources that should go to the common good like border control are squandered on passing ever more laws on those few who generally comply with them. If one were indeed to CHOOSE to build a house out in the country, they would be well aware of the need to address refuse control. Most country types aren't those who jump at a chance to pay government 150 percent of the cost of a service a year in advance (at the very legal threat of lien) that they can get privately WITHOUT any prepayment. It just doesn't add up. cont
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew November 17, 2012 at 04:31 AM
cont Now if one moves to the "country" from the metros to get away from it all, the tendency to begin molding the new location to soon begin to look like the old one left behind as "unbearable" is uncanny. But FAR too common an experience in my limited lifespan. Now that the roads have failed so miserably in your subdivision in 12 years time, have you addressed this to county since those roads were originally built by the developer to county approved/controlled standards so those who come in NEXT won't face the same fate or is that too petty to debate further? Of course we could also get into storm water piping construction standards and the impact of taxpayer expense for long-term maintenance.
Sheila A. November 17, 2012 at 01:09 PM
R, Of course while we are at it, I could also put up a solar panel to power my street light and I could haul off my own garbage or burn it in a pit at the back of my property like most do in the country. I have lived in a rural setting for at least a part of my life and just because I can kill and dress a chicken, doesn't necessarily follow that I would do that rather than buy chicken killed, dressed and in the meat section of the local grocery store. I am very sure that the chicken I would buy, let grow, give me eggs and finally kill would be many percentages cheaper than the one I pay for by the pound from the store. So what? That is a choice I make. Raising my own food would be a way of life IF I chose to not have a career, live close to my job and let others take over some of the services that come with living on the fringe between farm and city life. If you don't like the government in Gwinnett, move. I don't like a lot they have done.... the stupid stadium that can't even pay for itself, trying to privatize a local airport, paying pompous officials while cutting police and fire services... the list is endless. Problem is, if you pick any one thing and rant and rave at it while accusing me of "condo mentality", then that is your right. It is also my right to like having one trash collector and on that I have not changed my mind. We all have choices and this one is fine with me. Trash pickup is an issue that is in my rear view mirror, as is this discussion.
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew November 17, 2012 at 11:50 PM
I see that you didn’t reply concerning the road construction standards, so the next new subdivision occupants would not face the same fate. After all, taxpayers will rebuild them too after they are “signed over” in the future to the county, just like storm water piping now. But maybe they will live longer with the reduced trash truck traffic total, even if those reduced truck numbers carry the SAME total tonnage each week as before the new plan. Your response entails and details CHOICES, personal choice and the fact is that in the Trash matter CHOICE has been stripped for no other reason than the GOVERNMENT really wanted future revenue streams. You seem to have acknowledged the error in the way the service was delivered which was by a CIVIL settlement that bypassed all county procurement processes in place at the time the adventure began. The same agreement that by which the GOVERNMENT once again now collects funds MORE than it NEEDS to operate said project which has been CLEARLY proven by the ability our BoC has demonstrated that resulted in reductions for a few by INCREASING expenses EVEN HIGHER on a LOT more. Who knows, if the BoC can up the rates high enough - the STADUIM may survive or even be REPLACED what joy at the prospect… cont
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew November 18, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Cont The issue is really far greater than just trash collection; it’s about fellow citizens who got hurt bad financially when they dealt with the county, by its OWN standards in good business faith. For residents it’s about some that can afford to “pay a lot more for less” forcing others who may not be so flush in cash deciding to pay the bill or buy essentials. That 200 - 300 as a lump up front can screw up cash flow needed in tight times for food and meds. It remains to be seen if the county will exercise the legal right it now has to begin foreclosure on thousands who haven’t paid, that starts THIS year… The sad fact is, should the claim of this “right” to apply an extension of “Core Government Service” function doctrine remain intact outside of the original intent of addressing EMS services, we could end up with a sole bidder like Propeller Group and its vaporware RFP back here taking what little cash Briscoe can generate and sticking us taxpayers with the bill on its exit due to “failure to launch”. Remember the county ALREADY operates the airport now – is it the NEXT “Core Government” no bid opportunity? They tried publicly 3 times now will the 4th time be by fiat or government declaration? That’s one of the “core” reasons I support the effort that Mr. Mesteller is making here in taking out the trash. If it’s painful enough, our leaders may think twice and be encouraged to make SOUND fiscal decisions going forward.
Mr. B November 18, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I live 100 yards from the Hall County line. 100 yards to freedom to make my own choice rather than be forced into government control over my trash.
Pamela November 18, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Sheila, I totally understand the wish for and even need for convenience in our lives when we have a career, family, home and other responsibilities. I believe what everyone here is trying to say (and I KNOW they will correct me if I'm wrong) is that we want the freedom to CHOOSE what we want as individuals without having to be told what we're going to do and how much we're going to pay for it. Now that so much has been taken away, are we going to continue to let them keep what they've got and get even more? Or, what can we do to take it back... ?

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