LAWRENCEVILLE - Two questions have been answered regarding Gwinnett's new solid waste plan set to take effect Jan. 2 - how much will it cost me and who is picking up my trash?
According to Connie Wiggins, director of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, the two haulers selected will each service three distinct areas which encompass all residents of unincorporated Gwinnett County.
"Advanced Disposal Services Atlanta LLC and Waste Pro of Georgia Inc. were the highest ranked of seven interested companies and also offered the lowest and best price for services," Wiggins said in a released statement. "And significantly lower than all the others."
According to GCB Services, the nonprofit entity created to service the county's plan titled "A Greener Tomorrow Begins Today," beginning Jan 2, all residents will begin service with their new hauler during what is being touted as an initial phase-in period. This will last through June 30 and residents will be individually billed by their hauler at a rate of $20.45 a month. During this period households will also receive two, 95-gallon wheeled carts - one for garbage and one for recyclables. The number of recyclable items will also increase from the current amount of 7 to 35.
Then beginning July 1, residents will stop receiving bills from their hauler altogether and will begin paying the rate of $17.86 per month, once a year when they pay their annual property tax bill. Over the course of a 12-month period this amounts to an annual fee of $214.32. Wiggins said this monthly fixed amount will remain constant through Dec. 31, 2010. Any fee increases after that would have to be brought in front of the GCB Services Board and the increase would have to receive support from the board along with justification from the company. She also said there are no hidden fees or deposit amounts that will surprise people.
"The fees are the fees," she said.
Wiggins also said the monthly fee during the first six months of the new program is $2.59 higher than what it will eventually amount to because of general implementation costs as the program ramps up.
"The efficiencies will really kick in when the county takes over," she said. "We've tried our best to make sure residents get high quality service and value."
Along the lines of maintaining a high level of service and value, Wiggins said a new call center and Web site have been established to help residents with the transition and that as a result of the plan, every home in the unincorporated portions of the county will now have service. Wiggins said there are 20,000 homes that have no service at all and that this problem leads to illegal dumping and an unnecessary cost for taxpayers in order to clean up the mess.
"I've heard stories of people intentionally putting an open garbage bag or two on top of the trunk of their car and just driving off while the trash just blows everywhere," she said.
For residents who have complained that the new system is being forced upon them, GCB Services points to two years of work with more than 5,000 citizens who've participated in the community forums and the public hearing process. There is also a citizens advisory board comprised of 50 residents where concerns can be addressed. They also point to the fact that the new plan will equal same-day service in each area which means better curb appeal and a neater neighborhood appearance plus less traffic, less fuel consumption and less pollution as a result of fewer trucks being on the road.
But in tough economic times, the benefit of this plan appears to be the cost savings directed at consumers.
"Based on on-going market studies and rates reported by citizens, the current average price for garbage and recycling service in Gwinnett is $21 per month," the statement said. "The 'Greener Tomorrow' program will provide services at more affordable rates."
Wiggins also said residents who will be switching providers as a result of the new plan need to remain vigilant in watching the fees they are being charged on their bill. Some transition fees being charged by haulers as a result of the new plan has upset some residents.
"Some of what has happened underscores the need for the program," Wiggins said. "But 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. The companies cannot levy those fees. If the fees were assessed before Nov. 1, people should take that up with their individual hauler."
For more information on the new plan's implementation, visit www.gwinnettcbservices.org.