Old trash plan back in place
Garbage to be picked up in '09 by current haulers

LAWRENCEVILLE - Just one day after a Gwinnett County Superior Court judge trashed the county's new solid waste ordinance, the county found itself scrambling Friday to reassure residents that garbage and recycling service will continue despite the injunction.

And rest assured the county said, there will still be trash pickup after the New Year despite the current garbage snafu.

"As a result of this temporary order, the county will continue to operate under the old garbage collection system, which allows customers to contract with the hauler of their choosing," the county statement read. "Existing haulers will be able to continue to operate in the county. County officials are working to set up a meeting with haulers as soon as possible."

Six of the current eight haulers that operate in unincorporated Gwinnett were set to leave when the new plan took effect Jan. 1. That plan was halted by Judge Michael Clark on Thursday when he granted a preliminary injunction sought by local garbage haulers Southern Sanitation and Sanitation Solutions.

One hauler - Republic Services (formerly Robertson Sanitation) - issued a statement Friday which said its 90,000 customers will be getting their trash picked up as normal. It also released some good news for its Allied Waste Services customers who were charged a $23.50 "year-end transition fee" earlier this year. Republic acquired Allied Waste earlier this month.

"If you are one of the 25,000 customers we welcomed in December as part of our acquisition of Allied Waste, your $23.50 transition fee has been waived," the statement read. "If you already paid the fee, you will receive a credit for the full amount on an upcoming bill."

Calls to Waste Industries, the other firm who charged customers a $23.50 deactivation/demobilization fee, were unreturned Friday.

According to Buddy Johnson, the owner of Southern Sanitation, he and Kevin Byrd of Sanitation Solutions will also be servicing their clients in the new year without interruption.

"We'll keep servicing the customers we got and we'd be glad to take more on in the areas we service," Johnson said.

Anthony Grutadaurio, a spokesman for Red Oak Sanitation, shared in Johnson's sentiment.

"Based on the judge's order, the judge said status quo," Grutadaurio said. "We plan on picking up our customer's garbage on Jan. 2 as normal like it's a continuation of today. And we're delighted to have the opportunity to continue providing service to the customers of Gwinnett."

County Administrator Jock Connell said to handle questions from concerned residents about their trash pickup, a call center has been established that will begin operations Tuesday at 8 a.m. The number there is 770-822-7141. He also said residents can check for updates about how service will be handled in light of the ruling on its Web site - www.gwinnettcounty.com. Connell said he wanted to assure people that more information on this evolving issue will be forthcoming as answers become available.

"Clearly the court has made a decision that immediately affects how Gwinnett County manages solid waste," Connell said. "The Board of Commissioners also heard loud and clear from the public. While we still believe in the basic concepts of the new solid waste plan - reducing waste in our landfills and increasing recycling opportunities - we will look at adjustments to the plan in the next year keeping in mind concerns gleaned from our constituents."

For Johnson, he thinks a large majority of the constituents of Gwinnett County have already said what they want. And they screamed it out at Tuesday's Board of Commissioners meeting when the topic was being discussed - free choice.

"The citizens are happy with the direction its headed in now," Johnson said. "The public outcry was pretty big."