By Nathan Horton
End Note By Kenneth Stepp
When the Gwinnett County Commissioners started discussing a uniform contract to provide solid waste collection for the residents of unincorporated Gwinnett County, and adding those charges to the resident’s property tax bill, I was hugely against it.
The thought of not having choice, the potential for waste, more government control over our lives, the very possibility that you could lose your home for not paying for trash pick-up, goes against everything I believe in.
Now, nearly 3 years later, while I have many of the same concerns, I am happy to say there have been some positive results. Illegal dumping has been greatly reduced since everyone now has trash pickup. This relieves a burden to many property owners who were forced to spend money to have trash removed because people did not have trash service.
There are fewer trash trucks clogging our busy roads and slowing traffic through our county. Probably the most important, is there is now only 1 day a week when trash trucks are rumbling through our neighborhoods. Before the trash plan, many neighborhoods were serviced by as many as 5 different companies each coming through with a different truck on a different day.
It was bad for the environment, our traffic, and put our children at unnecessary risk as these trucks raced through residential streets every day. Not everything is perfect however. Many residents felt that their right to choose providers should not have been stripped from them at all. No one likes the government adding fees to your property tax bill that have nothing to do with your property taxes and being able to foreclose on your home if you are unable to pay them.
Fortunately, Gwinnett County’s State representative from the 106th District, Brett Harrell, has submitted a bill to the General Assembly (HB- 159) to remove these fees from all county and municipal property tax bills, and make it illegal to add such fees in the future. Representative Harrell introduced this bill despite working for a large waste collection and recycling firm, where these fees could potentially benefit his company, because he understands it is the right thing to do.
So, how can the county continue to benefit from the obvious advantages of this solid waste plan while returning freedom and choice back to the residents? One solution would be to request bids from multiple collection companies. These bids would be made public for review and the voters in each district could vote for the company they preferred. If, as in my experience, the company has performed poorly and had bad customer service, do not vote for them. If another company has a lower price, vote for them. Maybe one company will charge a bit more, but will provide outstanding service, include large item or overflow pick up, or include yard debris in their bid. This company may be a great option for you.
The residents would get some control over the process, the prices would stay competitive, and service would almost certainly improve. This would continue to give the county all the benefits of the current plan, while returning control and choice to the residents, the voters, where it belongs.
Gwinnett has an election every two years. Simply find a way to make the choice of waste company part of that vote. The voters deserve a chance to choose and to have a say over who provides the services they pay for. This is a common sense reasonable middle ground solution to a complex and contentious issue that has been brewing in our county. As a free market advocate, I personally prefer no government regulation over services at all, but since they are involved, let’s return as much control to the people as possible.
The Mechanics Of This Compromise
By: Kenneth Stepp
Gwinnett County owns the cans and bins. This makes the transfer from one company to the next smoother.
Vote for a waste company every two years during the regular voting process.
Create a county website for citizens to post anything they want about the current company, good or bad. To keep things honest great care should be taken to confirm they are using their real name and address. This creates a deeper level of accountability and lets the waste company know if they have a specific problem with a specific route.
Disconnect the bill from property. It is wrong on more levels than this article has room for.
It is my belief that this plan is far superior to the one we have now, and a good compromise between the leadership and voters.
The benefits Are
1. A decent level of choice for the citizens
2. Competition leads to lower prices and better service
3. Relief of tensions between county leadership and citizens over this issue
4. This will likely be the largest contract the winning waste company will ever have. This will make them more responsive to the voice of the citizens than we have now.