LAWRENCEVILLE - The Board of Commissioners and Gwinnett County took its first step toward revising its solid waste ordinance Tuesday by officially terminating its contract with Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Services.
According to the county's communications director Joe Sorenson, the move was necessary in order to meet the requirements of the court order issued last month which kept the old plan operating when 2009 arrived.
"The county's number one priority is making sure residents garbage and recycling gets picked up," Sorenson said. "But what this move does is allow the county to figure out how we can unwind from our action to let Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful administer trash pickup. Starting tomorrow and over the next 120 days, we'll be looking at what we need to do. And we have to figure that out because Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful does a lot."
For the two firms that were awarded the exclusive contracts to service residents in unincorporated Gwinnett - Advanced Disposal Services and Waste Pro - they'd both like to see the county take action on settling this matter quickly. To make that point known, representatives from both companies were present at Tuesday's afternoon public session.
"We're the good guys in this situation," said Advanced Disposal's Chief Marketing Officer Mary O'Brien. "We've invested tens of millions of dollars and we've got brand new trucks waiting in our yard. We've bent over backwards to implement this program in a very short window of six weeks," she said. "You hold the power to fix this problem."
O'Brien added that Monday Advanced Disposal began collecting the more than 40,000 carts already delivered to what it thought would be its new clients. She added that some of those carts were filled with people's garbage.
"It's not our waste and we're not being paid to collect that waste but we're still collecting it because it's the right thing to do," she said. "And that's what we've always done."
Waste Pro's Executive Vice President Bob Hyres had similar sentiments.
"We've also invested tens of millions of dollars into this process," Hyres said. "We've hired people who might have to be laid off possibly and we've got trucks sitting. We've ordered 180,000 carts with a custom dye that we can't return or use. But I applaud you for what you did because it took a lot of courage. It's one of the best plans I've ever seen."
Hyres then asked the commission to use its means to "get this in place and go forward with the two contractors that you've already contracted with and made a huge commitment to."
Approximately 30 to 40 of Waste Pro's Gwinnett employees were also present and many spoke to the commission while at the same time advocating the new solid waste plan. They all wore green "Support the plan" stickers. One employee called the present situation on the street "confusing" and asked the commissioners to act quickly to alleviate that confusion.
District 3 Commissioner Mike Beaudreau chimed in after the comments ceased.
"We're not finished," he said. "But anyone that says we don't have a trash problem in Gwinnett County needs to wake up and look out the windows. We have trash everywhere," he said. "But going back to the old way, in my opinion, is not acceptable. It will not work going forward."
Beaudreau then invited interested residents who are solution-oriented and would like to help in solving Gwinnett's trash problem to participate in a citizen's advisory committee by phoning his office. He finished by saying he'd like to see a solution implemented in Gwinnett as quickly as possible.
In other related news, Sorenson said the call center established to handle customer concerns related to trash has been receiving more than 200 calls per day since it began operating. He also acknowledged residents Monday reported 22 incidents of their trash not picked up. He said in seven of those cases, it appeared that the hauler had missed the collection of trash in the entire community. He said the most common questions or complaints had to do with people not being able to reach Waste Pro due to high call volumes. He said to relieve resident's frustrations, the call center has been compiling customer issues and contacting the haulers via e-mail to report and request resolutions.
"For residents who have been unsuccessful in reaching the hauler, we take their info and commit that we will forward their request to the hauler and request that they follow-up with the resident," Sorenson wrote in an e-mail. "And we always thank the callers for their patience during this hectic transition."