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New waste management plan: Residents may have to pay fee
Companies sue county after being forced out by new program

LAWRENCEVILLE - Unfortunately for affected residents, the county said Friday it can't do anything about a $23.50 fee levied on them by two garbage haulers being forced out of Gwinnett by the new countywide trash plan.

Unfortunately for the county, they're now being sued over the same trash plan by two entirely different garbage haulers also being forced out of Gwinnett.

In the first matter of business, county spokesman Joe Sorenson released a statement Friday in response to the $23.50 deactivation/demobilization fee being levied on customers of Waste Industries. The county had challenged the legality of that fee citing that it had not been disclosed with the Department of Financial Services on the firm's Sept. 1 quarterly schedule of fees.

"Although we hope that Waste Industries will rescind the fee, the matter is between the hauler and its customers," the statement read. "So long as customers got 30 days notice of the fee, the county won't take further action unless the hauler discontinues service before Dec. 31, 2008 for non-payment of the fee. This is true of any waste hauler who is charging a fee of this kind."

That implies customers who were charged a $23.50 year-end transition fee by Allied Waste in September will also have no recourse for collecting their money back.

In a letter received by the county from Waste Industries dated Nov. 20, the company said it did not include the deactivation fee in its September 2008 schedule filing "because at that time Waste Industries believed based upon assurances from Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful that Waste Industries would continue as a service provider after the new Solid Waste Plan was adopted and implemented."

The letter further stated that, "upon receiving notice on November 5, 2008 that the county was in fact awarding all services to two other service providers on terms different than those offered to Waste Industries during the bid process, Waste Industries notified customers of the deactivation fee." The letter concludes that Waste Industries was within its rights to charge the deactivation fee and that "the county's actions alone made the deactivation fee a business necessity."

Sorenson stated that the county has asked the firm to reconsider the fee since the contract was set to expire Dec. 31 all along.

The decision by the county not to pursue Waste Industries' $150,000 performance bond for the $23.50 fee is contradictory to a statement made by Director Connie Wiggins of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful in an article that appeared in the Gwinnett Daily Post Nov. 9. In that article, Wiggins said, "If anyone has received after Nov. 1 an increased bill, they need to let us know about it because that's not allowed based on the contract in place with the county."

Neither Wiggins or County Administrator Jock Connell were available for comment Friday concerning this statement or regarding a story the Associated Press reported that said $500 fines could be assessed to residents who throw recyclable items in the trash.

In the second matter of business, lawsuits were filed in Gwinnett County Superior Court Thursday against Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful and Gwinnett County by two locally affected garbage hauling companies also being forced out by the new trash plan.

In the lawsuits filed by former governor Roy Barnes' law firm Barnes Law Group on behalf of Southern Sanitation and Sanitation Solutions, the plaintiffs are petitioning for injunctive relief, damages and attorney fees by calling into question Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful's authorization to perform governmental functions, its decision to change the amount of service areas from eight to six and requiring potential haulers to post a $2 million performance bond during the request for proposal process.

Regarding the first count, the lawsuit states that Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful and Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Services are private, nonprofit corporations and that the general assembly of Georgia has not authorized the delegation of governmental power regarding the regulation of solid waste to a private corporation.

"Such delegation is not authorized and is a violation of the Constitution and laws of this state," the lawsuit reads.

Regarding the other two counts, the lawsuit states that the setting of the performance bond at the amount of the annual income from a service area was unreasonable and prohibited the two firms from being able to bid and further says, "Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful and Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Services through the request for proposal and contract proposals will generate income in the nature of a fee or tax which is not authorized for private, nonprofit corporations."