Ordinance gives Gwinnett homeowners little choice for yard waste

Gwinnett residents will have to pay extra to have their own yard waste collected under the county's new solid waste ordinance. But some residents fear the new plan leaves them vulnerable to unfair pricing.

The new ordinance, passed Tuesday by the county commission, does not include yard waste in its list of standard services to be provided by haulers it is selecting for regular trash pickup. While it encourages composting of yard waste, the ordinance says homeowners in unincorporated areas "shall have collected and dispose of ...yard trimmings with the residential service provider" selected by the county.

Gwinnett officials have been reluctant to disclose how it will select which haulers it will license, but the ordinance says there will be five service zones with one company allowed to operate in each.

On Friday, however, Casey Snyder of the Gwinnett County Department of Finance said the selection process will require haulers to set a rate for yard waste pickup. That charge will be billed directly to the customer, he said. The charge for garbage collection goes on the homeowner's tax bill.

"Yard waste would be a negotiated price countywide," Snyder said, "so you wouldn't run into the problem of each one having their own price structure."

County officials who drew up the ordinance argue that limiting service to one hauler per zone will reduce residential traffic and allow haulers to charge lower rates.

About a half-dozen residents went before county commissioners Tuesday to protest the new setup, arguing that  it robs homeowners of the ability to choose among the 10 haulers currently licensed to operate in the county. They also objected to forcing all homeowners to pay for garbage collection by placing the bill on property tax statements.

The new plan comes more than a year after Gwinnett County was forced to suspend implementation of a 2008 ordinance that named two haulers to serve all 180,000 households in unincorporated areas. That plan included a negotiated charge of $10 a month for yard waste collections.

The county is currently in talks with five haulers to settle lawsuits stemming from that program after a judge stopped it a week before it went into effect. A sixth hauler, Waste Industries, has filed a suit in federal district court charging Gwinnett County has been working to concoct a new solid waste plan that favors those haulers who sued over the 2008 ordinance.