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Judge OKs trash plan settlement

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A judge signed off Monday on a settlement that will allow Gwinnett County to move forward with its countywide trash plan.

But the constitutionality of the settlement remains in question.

In December 2008, Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Michael Clark halted the county from delegating responsibility of mandatory trash service to Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, which had awarded contracts to two trash haulers.

Since then, the county has been in mediation with five haulers. The settlement, which was approved by county commissioners March 23, will go into effect July 1 and divides the contracts between those five haulers.

Clark acknowledged the potential for challenges Monday but denied a claim by Red Oak Sanitation seeking another injunction against the trash ordinance.

"I'm not saying this ordinance is constitutional or this settlement is constitutional," said Clark, who voiced concerns that there was no process in which the haulers were selected other than being involved in the suit.

Clark also questioned the collection of fees prior to services being rendered. Under the plan, residents will pay for 18 months of services through this year's tax bill.

"Can you think of any other state tax that you can collect 18 months in advance?" Clark asked. "Why not go 24? I mean, is there no limit?"

Despite those concerns, Clark signed off on the settlement and said he would later consider declaring an opinion on the constitutionality of the latest version of the trash ordinance and settlement.

While Monday's proceedings affected three lawsuits, a fourth remains in federal court.