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Trash settlement approved

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Much of Gwinnett's more-than-a-year-long trash saga appears over after commissioners approved a settlement Tuesday dividing the county among five garbage haulers.

But with one lawsuit to go and public dismay over the government mandating trash service, two commissioners admitted the deal had downsides.

"I look at this as trying to make the best out of a tough situation," Commissioner Mike Beaudreau said, pointing to $80 million in lawsuit claims waived in the settlement and blaming legislators for neglecting to take care of a rental oversight issue.

Commissioner Shirley Lasseter, the sole dissenting vote, said the plan solves issues such as multiple garbage trucks causing noise and pollution as well as wear and tear on the roads, but she said she fought for discounts for seniors.

"We've been held hostage," during mediation sessions, she said.

According to county officials, the plan will take effect July 1, with haulers assigned to residential areas.

Although the process did not include competitive bids, the settlement will place fees at $17.86 a month for mandatory trash pickup, recycling, bulky items and white items, the first 18 months of which will be charged on upcoming property tax bills.

All county residences will be subject to the fee, which includes a $1.25 per month administrative charge, whether the home is occupied or not.

"There's just so much that's unfair," said Phyllis Nye after Tuesday's decision. "There are a lot of people having a hard time paying their tax bills now."

While commissioners discussed the plan, Pete Henrickson pretended to offer money from his wallet.

"This is a direct increase in my bottom line," he said. "There are other ways to handle this than to socialize garbage."

Randy DeVault, who is leading a recall campaign against Chairman Charles Bannister, said the decision will fuel his cause.

"I don't think it'll stand up to federal antitrust laws," he said. "It's time for a change in leadership in this county."

Also Tuesday, officials approved the formation of the county's fourth community improvement district.

The boundaries of the Lilburn area district, where a majority of business owners agreed to tax themselves to fund improvements in their communities, were tweaked to alleviate a concern about the district's size.