Trash plan may get more time
County may allow current haulers to continue pickup until next year

LAWRENCEVILLE - A county official said Thursday that Gwinnett is working on an extension with its nine residential garbage haulers that would allow them to keep working in the county through the end of the year.

With the 120-day extension granted to haulers in December set to expire April 30, the move would give the county another eight months for developing and implementing a new solid waste plan.

"Staff is very close to finalizing a timeline for a new solid waste plan for the county," Communication Director Joe Sorenson said. "As soon as we have that in place, we'll make an announcement."

The 120-day extension was given to all of Gwinnett's residential trash haulers after Superior Court Judge Michael Clark granted haulers Southern Sanitation and Sanitation Solutions a preliminary injunction against the county and Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful. The preliminary injunction halted the county's 2008 solid waste plan from taking effect Jan. 1. That plan would have set the county up into six zones with two haulers - Waste Pro and Advanced Disposal - servicing three zones each, or roughly 90,000 households each.

Haulers Southern Sanitation and Sanitation Solutions filed the lawsuit challenging that plan because they said it would have forced them out of business and that the request for proposal process was suited to the advantage of large corporations. The matter is scheduled to be resolved in court in early May, although the county and Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful have requested mediation.

In related business, Commissioner Mike Beudreau's "blue ribbon" trash committee is still shooting to get its recommendations to Beaudreau prior to the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday.

According to member Mack Perry, the group is divided over some issues while in total agreement on others. One that it seems to be in agreement about is making trash service mandatory for all residential homes.

"People are pretty set on mandatory trash pickup because that's the only way we can get rid of a big portion of the illegal dumping," Perry said. "And the illegal dumping isn't coming from people who have trash service."

The issue where there seems to be contention relates to allowing people to opt out of the mandatory service. For instance, it's been brought to the committee's attention that some small business owners take their home trash to their place of business, the logic being why pay for a service twice. Other concerns relate to vacant rental properties and also senior citizens living on fixed incomes. Perry said some churches allow their senior members to dump trash at the church to save them the expense.

"I personally don't have a problem with an opt-out program as long as it's very strict," Perry said. "But people need to realize that we're just making recommendations."

One other group who offered some recommendations this past week regarding Gwinnett's ongoing solid waste issue was the grand jury, which initiated the investigation themselves, said District Attorney Danny Porter.

It recommended that Gwinnett County allow residents to have input regarding the final plan that is implemented, to not include trash bills in homeowner property taxes and to not eliminate competition among haulers. Specifically, it said that residents want the ability to choose from at least three haulers in order for there to be competition and to keep cost low.

Sorenson said the county respects the time and opinions of the members of the grand jury.

"We will give their recommendations significant weight as we move forward with the development of a new plan," Sorenson said. "That will include the opportunity for even more community input."