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Supreme Court arguments made on both sides of trash debate

ATLANTA -- The attorney for a Snellville man battling Gwinnett County's controversial trash plan felt good about Monday's oral arguments in front of the Georgia Supreme Court.

In September, 30-year Snellville resident Bob Mesteller and attorney Chris McClurg filed an appeal to the state's highest court, refuting a Gwinnett court's summary judgement that the county's 2010 solid waste collection plan -- a divisive one among many residents -- was legal and constitutional.

The agreement divides the county into several different residential zones and assigns a different garbage collector to each area. The waste haulers provide monthly bills to the county, which pays them based on the number of residential units they served that month.

Residents are then charged one year of upfront fees on their property tax bills.

McClurg and Frank Jenkins, a Cartersville attorney representing the county, made their arguments in front of the Supreme Court Monday afternoon.

"I felt fantastic about it," McClurg said afterward. "The only concern or hesitation I have is ... this is a 10-year contract with five companies and affects 180,000 people in the county. For the Georgia Supreme Court to overturn the lower court, it's going to really take them doing the right thing."

McClurg's presentation Monday mirrored that in several briefs previously filed in the case: He argued that the county had no right enact the contract to begin with, and the fact that the county has placed the fee on tax bills and can then put liens on property if the full charge is not paid.

Justice David Nahmias seemed to question if it was the court's place to have an opinion on the matter when McClurg brought up the public's reaction to the trash plan.

"And the people they elect could change it any day, right?" Nahmias asked. "If in fact that were the majority view of the citizens, then they could change the law or ordinance at any point, right?"

McClurg answered that, as of Jan. 1, no commissioner who passed the trash plan will remain on the board.

"Then the system will be working very well," Nahmias countered.

Jenkins made his argument as well, opting to use just 11 of the 20 minutes granted to each side. He refuted characterizations of the trash fee as a tax, saying "it is just the way we set it up."

"As this court says so often," Jenkins said, "you may not particularly like the wisdom of some legislative scheme, but it's up to a local government to determine its most effective and efficient way of providing services," he said.

The Supreme Court's opinion will be made an published at a later date. Justice Robert Benham was under the weather and not present Monday, but will have video and transcripts and participate fully in the decision, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein said.

Mesteller, the Snellville resident who challenged the law, said he wasn't sure how proceedings went Monday, but that he was "fed up" with Gwinnett County.

"They're stinking up the county and they need to get out of the trash business," he said.

Comments

R 1 year, 5 months ago

It's a tax

Where we had choice before - we have NONE now.

It was done for the convenience of the county to collect revenue 3 QUARTERS before it’s due.

IT’S A TAX!

Just because "Republicans" were involved, DOESN”T mean that taxes weren’t raised.

BoC,

CALL it a tax and start talking with your residents as if they in fact have SOME intelligence…

We out here in the world AREN’T the crooks around here!

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Don 1 year, 5 months ago

,It is not a tax but a revenue stream for the county. Once again do the math, 180,000 customers multiplied by the $1.30 per month service charge is $234,000 per month or $2,808,000 per year. The small county trash call center does not spend near that on wages.

So I ask just what is being done with the revenue? This does not include the interest that the county is getting off of the year in advance payment.

Charlotte where is the transperency on this?

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Cygnus_God_of_Balance 1 year, 5 months ago

Everyone complains, yet Charlotte Nash ran unopposed this election...

Without someone there to enact the change that is cried out for, how will change occur?

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kevin 1 year, 5 months ago

Amen. I have been saying this for years. Do not re-elect. We have no Democracy in Gwinnett. A Democracy is when you have choices. No choices with a one candidate race. Why throw the lever for one person and look stupid?

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Don 1 year, 5 months ago

This was a pre-Nash plan. Contracts were signed for ten years so the courts need toget us out of this with little or no cost.

There will not be a BOC member sitting once this year is over that voted this in.

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kevin 1 year, 5 months ago

Snellville keeps right on going! Always something happening from Snellville. The only thing I see wrong with this trash plan is we have to pay for it annual upfront. I have no problem with my trash hauler. Who really cares about this stupid lawsuit anyway? Most large cities have one trash hauler, the one with the lowest rates.

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R 1 year, 5 months ago

Well do people believe EMS services are “fee” based or “TAX” based services?

I ask this because our county used a SINGLE legal case involving EMS services provided in Hall County that, as a “core” government service, legally bypassed the competitive bidding procedures required in routine operations.

So based on that single example, the county has already indirectly defined the cost as a tax and one that WILL NEVER REQUIRE future competitive bidding procedures to help reduce the expense to the end users - read US. Just remember, tax payers paid for the cost break that the BoC granted to a small subset of seniors because OTHER taxpayers are now paying EVEN more.

We may not be able to cost effectively break these contracts, but we MUST undo the precedent of adding “government revenue generating centers” we pay for under the legal definition of "core" government service. For those who get cable, there’s another currently existing Gwinnett County "franchise" opportunity to be added to your tax bill 18 months or a year in advance.

That would just be COMCASTIC or CHARTERIFFIC don’t you think?

Trash trucks and their (or OUR own county) customer service centers NEVER respond to 911 calls of shots fired…

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Mack711 1 year, 5 months ago

Has anyone adderss the issue of what Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, namely Connie Wiggins, do with the funds that are raised on the recycle side? Bet that could lower our TAX burden if we knew what and where that money is. Remember that Connie , and GC&B, started a lot of this mess that we have today.

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