3 garbage contracts dumped

LAWRENCEVILLE - Two of Gwinnett County's eight residential trash haulers and one commercial hauler will no longer be able to pick up residents' waste, beginning April 1.

Red Oak Sanitation, Quality Waste Services and commercial hauler JC Roadrunner Inc. were not able to provide the bonds or other financial assurances that the county requires to continue picking up garbage in Gwinnett, Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Director Connie Wiggins said.

Each of the two residential haulers had between 8,000 and 9,000 customers, Wiggins said. JC Roadrunner had nine commercial customers and primarily serviced large items. About 12 percent of the county's 140,000 trash customers use one of those two waste removal companies.

As of Jan. 2, 2007, the bond requirement for all garbage hauling companies doubled, from $75,000 to $150,000, but Wiggins said because the companies signed their 2007 contracts before the increase went into effect, they paid just $75,000 last year. Red Oak Sanitation and Quality Waste Services were in meetings in February 2007 where the increased fee was discussed and had signed papers saying they were aware the change was coming, Wiggins said.

"I'm a little puzzled," she said. "Companies much smaller than these two companies have been able to get all the insurance and bonds they were required to do."

Wiggins said this is the first time the county has terminated trash haulers. But she said all three companies have had issues in the past several years.

JC Roadrunner first started operating in the county without permission, and Red Oak and Quality Waste both had to create action plans to respond to customers' complaints three or four years ago, she said. None of the companies have had problems recently.

No one from any of the companies returned phone calls seeking comment about the termination. Phone numbers for Red Oak and Quality Waste led to the same voice mailbox, for Sanitation Services. A number listed for JC Roadrunner did not accept messages.

Wiggins said she has gotten more than 100 phone calls and e-mails in the past several weeks from residents who said Red Oak Sanitation and Quality Waste Services sent out letters to customers saying they would no longer be collecting garbage after Feb. 1. The county gave all three companies until March 31, she said.

On Feb. 2, Wiggins said, customers began telling her that the residential services started to pull containers from people's homes.

"People have been upset," she said. "They don't understand why this is happening."

The haulers are required to refund customers for any payment they made past March 31. Typically, residents contract with a company for three months at a time at a cost of $13 to $15 a month, Wiggins said, though she had heard that some of the terminated companies may have been asking for yearlong contracts.

Because residents have contracts with the providers directly, they will need to deal with the companies to get any money back.

Wiggins said the termination of the companies would have no bearing on whether they could apply again to pick up waste in the future. The companies could also bid on collection districts in a new trash plan, slated to begin in 2009, that divides the county into eight service areas.

The plan is in the draft stage and is being reviewed by the Atlanta Regional Commission and the state's Department of Community Affairs.

Rhonda Etheridge, the Treasury Division Director for the county, said the three terminated companies received plenty of notice before this action was taken. They were originally given until Dec. 31 to pay the bond, a deadline that was first extended to Jan. 31, then Feb. 8.

"The grace period has expired," she said. "At some point in time, we're running a bigger risk to the citizens by not having that contract in place."

Neither Etheridge nor Wiggins knew if the companies had failed to provide the bonds or proper insurance, which is required to be $2 million worth of protection. Wiggins said the high numbers are there to ensure that county residents are protected if there is an accident involving one of the haulers, or if a trash company goes out of business.

A list of approved haulers in the county can be found by calling 770-822-5186 and pressing option two, or at www.gwinnettcb.org.

For questions about the termination, call Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful at 770-822-5187, the Gwinnett County Licensing and Revenue Manager at 678-377-4101 or the Gwinnett County Treasury Division Director at 770-822-7819.