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Garbage plan appeal goes to Supreme Court

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A local attorney is hoping the Georgia Supreme Court will throw out Gwinnett's controversial trash plan.

On behalf of local resident Robert Mesteller, Chris McClurg filed an appeal Tuesday to the state's highest court, arguing that the county government does not have the authority to charge for garbage service on tax bills.

"They have foreclosed on people's property" because of the garbage bill, McClurg said, adding that had not happened to Mesteller.

Mesteller was one of two local residents who represented themselves in lawsuits trying to stop the plan.

Judge Michael Clark, who signed off on a settlement between the county and trash companies allowing for the required county-wide service, ruled against Mesteller last year.

Mesteller approached McClurg about the case during a candidate forum, while McClurg was running for the Superior Court bench this month. McClurg said he did not offer an opinion at the time, but was hired to take charge of the appeal after he lost the election.

"The real upside (for homeowners) is if the Supreme Court overturns the ordinance, there's going to be a big problem in Gwinnett," McClurg said, adding that he would immediately file a class action lawsuit seeking a refund plus interest for taxpayers.

The attorney spoke to a tea party group Thursday and plans to approach other activists to generate interest in the case.

The solid waste ordinance began in 2010, and homeowners must pay the second bill for the service by Oct. 15.

Gwinnett County officials were not available for response after business hours Thursday. The county has 20 days to respond to the appeal.

Comments

CD 1 year, 7 months ago

Questions: does the county pay for service in advance, quarterly, monthly, etc? Does the county actively moniotor vacant homes and deduct payment accordingly?

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JCJB 1 year, 7 months ago

They do not. I have been trying to sell a house for over a year. There is no contingency for vacant properties. You pay as much as everyone else does, which iamounts to free money for the providers and county kickbacks. I have been complaining about this practice to no avail. I would love to have that money back.

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lorithib 1 year, 7 months ago

You should get that money back. That is awful, but in this county, not surprising.

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kevin 1 year, 7 months ago

The hard fact is many large cities have one garbage company. as long as they are doing a fine job at a low price, which this company is, I have no problem with using one company instead of a dozen. The one thing that I think is very wrong is having to pay 12 months at one time on my property tax bill. In every city I know of that does this, most collect the monthly fee on a water bill. If the person/company, pays their utility bill minus the garbage bill, the city cannot turn off that utility since the non-payment was for the garbage portion of their bill. this is the way it should be when people must use a city-picked single company to collect garbage. Amen.

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

Kevin That's part of the problem - We don't get the low volume price ...

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NorcrossDot 1 year, 7 months ago

My garbage bill through government control is double what I paid in private enterprise.

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BufordGuy 1 year, 7 months ago

Problem is, Kevin, this is UNINCORPORATED Gwinnett County, not a city. A city is a corporation and behaves differently. Also, most cities have a municipal trash department, not collecting fees for a private business and eliminating competition.

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

Honorable Chris McClurg

I hope in all humbleness and sincerity that you have access to enhanced support that is specifically focused in GA Constitutional law niche, because those resources are indeed RARE around here for the rank and file.

There are valid points to base a successful appeal on as the superior court judge pointed out in 2010, but it will take a specialist's focus to ask the proper questions. (Get the April 2010 court recorder/stenographer's transcripts - 3 plus hours worth)

To that end, we pray that you are successful.

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DB 1 year, 7 months ago

Wah. Seems that some of us have no problem with the current arrangement.

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NorcrossDot 1 year, 7 months ago

Yes, there is factions in America that want the government to control them cradle to grave.

I am not one of those.

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DB 1 year, 7 months ago

Government control.... Don't believe in stop signs? Sewer service? Zoning enforcement? Speed limits?...

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JCJB 1 year, 7 months ago

Actually DB, not many people in Gwinnett County believe in stop signs or speed limits. They also have no clue what a turn signal is or what a Yield sign means

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

DB apparently LOVES paying MORE for LESS.... 1YEAR upfront!

I'm certain he paid his mortgage/rent in FULL a year before its due too.

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DB 1 year, 7 months ago

Our cost is about the same and the quality is much better than before. We are now on the Advanced Waste Service route. We also would have preferred the charge be included in the water bill each month but that's Gwinnett for you. We like it that nobody can dodge the waste problem and resort to dumping or "absent mindedly" leaving garbage on their trunk lid to fall off in the highway. Actually witnessed that a few years ago.

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

Glad you don't see it but its still out there...

Commercial businesses complaining about bags of refuse magically appearing, couches, trash at four way stops ...

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BuzzG 1 year, 7 months ago

I lived in my house for 22 years with not a lick of problem with the garbage company. Why not? Because I could pick up the phone and hire a new one for any reason. Don't want Wednesday pick up? I could hire someone who comes on Monday. Now I can no longer do that. I no longer control my own trash hauling. The county politicians control it and you know they plan on nice "contributions" from the trash haulers when they run for re-election. The company they assigned me frequently drops trash and I have to go pick it up myself. When I complained, they stated it is my fault because I improperly bag my own garbage. With a response like that, three years ago I would have fired them. Now I have to deal with uncaring government bureaucrats.

Robert Mesteller, you are a great American hero.

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Mack711 1 year, 7 months ago

We had a similar problem with the recycle bin. An item that was not on the list of approved items was thrown on the ground next to the garbage bin thus the newspapers were scattered over the neighborhood. All he had to do was open the garbage can and put the item in it, but no that made to much sense. Called the county about this and was told not their problem that I had to deal with it......so I did, no more recycling. If they want it then they can dig it out. We are not the only ones on our street to encounter this issue. So good luck in getting this trash plan thrown out since 3 commissioners that voted for it resigned. charged and convicted in Federal court and one is awaiting trial. Commissoiners do the right thing and Vote this plan out and save the citizens tax dollars for a court trial.

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

And this just adds to the irony of the “special provisions’ about lawsuit immunity spelled out in the leading pages of the trash consent order itself…

We just keep on blindly paying for the sins of some with NO assurances that it won’t keep right on happening going forward.

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teelee 1 year, 7 months ago

If you think the garbage plan sucks, wait til Obama Care kicks in full speed! Talk about higher rates, fraud and bad service!

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NorcrossDot 1 year, 7 months ago

teelee - You have got that right! Nothing is free and the government always cost more than private enterprise with no way to fire them. Except stand up and keep fighting. I worked against the trash and the commissioners and will continue to do so. I take a little bit of pride in the convictions. Should have been done by our "DA". But if Obama gets reelected we are going to have many more crisis than health care. Not sure America can survive. Choice is: If you want freedom - vote Romney and then work to get the "Good Ole Boys" in the Republican ousted but you'll still be free. If you want Socialism government rule from cradle to grave then vote Obama. Very simple people.

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JHogan 1 year, 7 months ago

I can't imagine the state SC ruling against Gwinnett County on this issue. In our case,we pay less for better service and don't have to deal with garbage trucks every day on the local streets. It's even harder to beleive there would be even a whiff of bribery involving any of the garbage companies, given recent events.

I came across a case while reading some old newspapers from the early 1920's that sounds something like the arguments often heard re the local garbage issue. Some citizens were very upset that the government had imposed something called the "blinker law/

What was this dastardly law about? It required drivers to dim their headlights to oncoming traffic. The judge threw out the case.

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

There seems to be a select few who apparently were lousy shoppers under the old system as most now pay FAR more that before the BoC stepped in to SAVE us ALL...

If one day pickups are the MAJOR benefit that one wants, that issue could have been addressed under requirements of the previous franchise agreement MINUS all the LEGAL expense we faced with today's program.

Of course, if you believe that the roads in Gwinnett can't support the trucks weight, that's a far bigger problem that has yet to be actually addressed out in the real world.

To the SC - It's like high level Jeopardy! if not phased specific and narrow in the proper format, the concern even though correct, will be rejected.

Some may LOVE paying more for less now, but when the next CORE government service is added, perhaps not so much.

The current "process" was supported by only ONE precedent, kinda like the single response Briscoe RFP and we ALL know how THAT turned out...

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NorcrossDot 1 year, 7 months ago

You may pay less because you didn't use your right to shop around. Mine has doubled and I didn't have to pay it in advance nor have it put on my house taxes. So don't make statement to include all of us in Gwinnett just the ones you know about.

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nag6970 1 year, 7 months ago

I hope you succeed in repel in the Georgia Supreme Court. I don't remember even being asked if, as a property tax payer, wanted this trash pickup. I was doing perfectly fine and have the ability of choosing a rubbish collection company. We are now paying more and by the way, how many new county employees have we added ? Thanks Mike Boudreau !!!

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Mack711 1 year, 7 months ago

One question that some of our neighbors asked today was 'What is happening to the funds that is taken in from the recycle program?" Where is that money at? Can some one answer that question? if they made a profit off recycling these items then that profit should be deducted from the haulers fee for the service.We smell a rat on this one. Is Connie Wiggins and Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful getting these funds and not the county as a rate deduction in what we pay? Did the previous commisioners get a 'cut ot the funds'? Too many unanswered questions in this process. We need to know the answers. Does anyone know for sure how this works, please post.

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Don 1 year, 7 months ago

All I want to know is what is the county doing with the $1.30 per month service fee they get for overseeing this debacle. There are 180k customers making this a small $2.8 million per year and all they have is about five customer service reps that tell you to call your carrier and one supervisor. I have called them and tell them I did not hire my carrier and they work for the county so you can call them.

Now remember this 2.8 million does not include the interest that the county makes on our upfront payment.

This entire process was flawed from the very beginning, from corruption to waste transfer stations to service areas.

Tell me how to sign up to join this suit. Yes I will be calling McClurg.

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mickey 1 year, 7 months ago

None of you remember.......all of this was to settle A LAWSUIT! That is where all of the money is going. We are all paying for that settlement. Thanks again, Charlie and Connie Wiggins. Why hasn't she been brought up on corruption charges? She started the entire mess. Yeah, take a look at the who's who on the Board of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful. It contains all of the "good old boys of Gwinnett". Start there Danny!

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

Oh yes we remember... We want others to remember too.

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Say_that_again 1 year, 7 months ago

What a tangled web we weave! Assuming the courts overturn the garbage plan, then what? A Lawsuit! Who wins in the case of a lawsuit? Certainly not the taxpayers! The county may need to increase taxes just to pay legal expenses and should the suit go against them, they will need to raise taxes to pay off the suit, which will include hefty legal fees. The only winners in such an event will be the lawyers. Careful what you wish for. That's what happened before. The current garbage prices are due to the settlement of a law suit that reduced the ability of the county to bargain for a better price. Should this be overturned, we will once again be faced with suits from the garbage companies. No matter how you feel about the current plan, overturning it in the courts will only make matters worse. The only reasonable way to change it is vote out the commission and put some in that will change it after the current contract is up.

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

And yet our county leaders have referred to this plan publicly as a "success"...

And then RAISED fees on one class to provide a publicly advertised election year break to another subset WITHOUT reducing its OWN internal costs to fund it.

Don't you try to build on and EXPAND successful policies?

And since the county has already shown its hand by NOT reducing its take, it has NO real incentive to reduce our costs in ANY future negotiations on our behalf because that cuts into the cash-flow to the general fund that the BoC controls.

Our leaders appear to be VERY comfortable at this point at the prospect of leaving this "slush fund" in place.

The residents need to be sure they start NOW unwinding the dependency on the funds this mess produces before they decide its time to add something else as a revenue producer, masked under the policy term of "core" government service. The class of service that requires ZERO public bidding and can allow "single source" suppliers.

Wouldn't one firm just LOVE a multi-year sole source contract for our entire county? How about one awarded for a DECADE?

You REALLY think this is in OUR best interest? Because if you read the plan that the BoC and Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful first hatched THAT was the end goal...

We CAN'T afford NOT to fix this issue now.

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CD 1 year, 7 months ago

I was thinking about this post today, specifically your last sentence. While the costs to the taxpayer concern me: legal, possible settlement costs with haulers, the idea that taxpayers could actually pay interest to themselves, etc., I agree this slush fund should meet its end. Sometimes, the plain truth is that the taxpayer will pay no matter which path is taken.

Let's agree that we need to get the collective checkbook out and right this wrong. The right choice is seldom the easiest choice.

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barushka 1 year, 5 months ago

I am a Gwinnett County resident and was shocked that they forced us to put our trash bill on our property taxes. First, it is higher than when they billed me on a regular basis and now this article has me really really ticked of!! The general public is getting the shaft every time we turn around. I hate government, especially the local one. Now, I would like to know when the meeting is at the Supreme Court. Damn, I want to be there. Please help me? Please. Barushka

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