Judge rules trash plan constitutional

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Even though many residents don't like it, a judge said Gwinnett County's decision to charge solid waste and stormwater fees on tax bills is constitutional.

Earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Michael Clark -- the same judge who threw out an original re-write of Gwinnett's solid waste ordinance in late 2008 -- affirmed the current county plan, which was reached as a settlement when local haulers took the county to court.

Last July, the new trash plan took effect, creating districts for five residential haulers. Whereas in the past residents could choose their own vendor, the new law means one hauler will go through a neighborhood. Residents paid the county in advance through their tax bills, and the county pays the hauler.

Verland and Milagros Gilliam of Loganville filed a lawsuit, alleging it is illegal to require all residents to have trash service and bill them in advance, but Clark disagreed.

In a press release, county officials said Clark's findings "finally settle a number of issues related to the new solid waste plan."

Verland Gilliams said he has been in talks with lawyers about filing an appeal.

"This whole thing is a piece of crap," he said. "I don't know how any judge could go along with this."

He said the contract with haulers opens the county up to steep price increases.

While the first payment on last year's tax bills was $328.21 for 18 months of service, Gilliams' tax bill is paid through an escrow account set up with his mortgage. His bill went up $57.04 a month, so he will pay more than $600 for the fee, he said.

"We have no choice. We are at the mercy of the haulers," he said. "There are people in the county being discriminated against."