Trash plan protest set for Saturday

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Three political activist groups are joining together Saturday to protest Gwinnett County's new trash plan, which begins July 1.

The Four Corners Tea Party, FreedomWorks Gwinnett and Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government have organized the protest, which will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the gazebo next to the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse on the Lawrenceville square.

Debbie Dooley, one of the event's organizers, said the protesters will be urging the Gwinnett County commissioners to repeal the trash plan -- and, in particular, remove the bill from homeowners' property taxes.

"It's our way of letting the commissioners know we remember their vote and we're not going to forget it," said Debbie Dooley, a Dacula resident and the Georgia grassroots coordinator for FreedomWorks. "We want to make sure they are held accountable for their vote."

The county's new solid waste program will make trash collection mandatory for all homeowners in unincorporated Gwinnett County. City residents are not affected by the plan.

As part of the program, Gwinnett County has contracted with five private haulers that will each serve a designated area of unincorporated Gwinnett.

The base service fee -- which includes weekly trash pickup of household garbage, recycling and pickup of bulky items such as old furniture and white goods such as refrigerators -- will be $17.86 per month. Yard waste collection can be purchased from the hauler for an additional fee.

Initially, the county will bill for 18 months of service -- the remainder of 2010 and all of 2011. The $321.48 charge will be added to homeowners' property tax bills, which will be mailed this fall. The county will bill for the trash service on an annual basis starting in 2012.

Billing for the first 18 months of garbage service on this year's tax bill and then on an annual basis is the most cost-effective method, and it will reduce the overall cost to customers, county officials said.

The plan has been touted by county officials as a more efficient and cost-effective solid waste service that will result in cleaner neighborhoods.

But the protest organizers say they doubt the trash plan will stop illegal dumping.

Sabrina Smith, the chairwoman of Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government, said most of the illegal dumping is done by construction contractors, not residents. She said her neighbor watched a truck back up to some foreclosed property and dump construction debris.

"The mandatory trash program isn't going to stop that kind of thing," she said.

After the county's trash plan with Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful was ruled unconstitutional, Smith said the commissioners took a bad problem and made it worse.

"It was obvious from the beginning that the majority of people who live in Gwinnett County do not support the trash plan," she said. "Most people made their point loudly and clearly, but the commissioners were tone deaf, and they continued on with what they wanted to do."

Smith said the plan also violates a free enterprise system.

She said she's happy with her current hauler, but she's not pleased about the one that has been assigned to her -- a company that she previously chose not to do business with.

"I think competition is a good thing," she said. "People should be able to choose their own provider. There are a lot of ways to address illegal dumping without having mandatory trash pickup and without putting (the charge) on property tax bills."

Dooley has one suggestion.

"Our suggestion would be to enforce the ordinances," she said, "... instead of punishing everyone in Gwinnett County that has been keeping trash picked up and has kept a clean yard."