Wednesday, January 7, 2009

BOC Contract with Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Terminated

In its first meeting of the New Year, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners voted to terminate the contract with Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Services. This is in response to the temporary injunction issued by the courts in December. The recommendation was added to the agenda by Commissioner Kevin Kenerly, and passed unanimously. A couple of my favorite sites following this are Trash Gwinnett by Don S and Mack Perrys blog. Both attended the meeting yesterday and voiced their opinions.
Unfortunately, they were out numbered by the scores of employees from Waste Pro and Advanced Disposal. Many of which have jobs that depend on the previously exclusive contracts these two companies had with the county. While I do feel these two companies are victims in this whole mess, I don't believe most of the appeals they made were appropriate for this venue. Their major theme rallied around trying to get the injunction reversed and exclusive contracts upheld. While these companies invested in good faith for new capitol and job creation, I feel they should be making their arguments in front of the courts who issued the injunction. I'm not a lawyer but, if that fails they may be able to seek damages for breech of contract. In any case, just asking the Board of Commissioners to reinstate their contracts can not be done at this time.

Additionally, arguing some of their employees may loose their jobs if the exclusive contracts are not upheld should be pointless. Remember, these jobs are replacing the ones held by the previous companies. In fact, the number of jobs associated with the Solid Waste Disposal Industry in Gwinnett should be less if there are only two exclusive contracts covering the whole county.

In conclusion to the comments, Commissioner Mike Beaudreau stated this is not the end of issue. He said "anyone that says we don't have a trash problem in Gwinnett County needs to wake up and look out the windows. We have trash everywhere," he said. "But going back to the old way, in my opinion, is not acceptable. It will not work going forward." He then invited those wanting to help in a solution to contact him and join a new "Blue Ribbon Committee". You can find contact information for Mike and the rest of the board here.

I'm sorry Mr. Beaudreau, but the problem in Gwinnett is not as bad as you make it out to be. Gwinnett is still one of the cleanest Metro Atlanta counties. Yes, there are some problems under the old plan, but exclusive contracts with mandatory payments added to your tax bill is not an acceptable option either.

Some suggestions going forward should include:
  • Enforcement of our dumping and littering laws by punishing those who are actually breaking the law.
  • Lowering the number of trucks providing service without giving up the consumers power of free choice.
  • Establishing one day each week for service in each area.
  • Increase consumer recycling through technology and positive incentives, not fines.
  • Definitely do not add it to our tax bill. This is a utility that should be able to be canceled if not needed. Even if it turns into a single government run department, like Water, we should be able to cancel it when it is not needed.
There may be many challenges to overcome, but it can be done. I look forward to working with this new committee and encourage everyone to get involved and be informed.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Waste Industries Trashes Customers Then Begs for Their Business

Who is laughing now?
Waste Industries is scrambling to save the business they once enjoyed in Gwinnett County. They expected to lose all of their customers after the implementation of a very controversial county waste management plan. Instead of joining in with the two small businesses that challenged this plan, they tried to suck every last dime they could, by charging a deactivation fee. This infuriated many customers including myself.

After the temporary injunction was granted last week by Judge Michael Clark, Waste Industries launched a robo call campaign to inform their customers they would continue to service them in 2009. They said "if you paid the deactivation fee, it would be credited to your next invoice", and they still intended on being my service provider.

I, like many others, decided not to pay this deactivation fee. A fee, as described by their CEO, covering the expenses of closing their branch in Gwinnett. Many of us even filed complaints with the BBB and the Office of Consumer Affairs as well as protest in writing.

So when I received this call that pretended like nothing had happened, I laughed. There is no way I was going to do business with them. After all, they destroyed any trust or sympathy I could possibly have for them and did not deserve my business. The first thing I did was to call one of the small businesses (Southern Sanitation) that actually fought to get this injunction. It took me over three hours of calling to get through because the line was busy. Not only were they very nice and helpful, but they were less expensive than Waste Industries, or my assigned provider under the new plan. Their actions, by challenging this plan and pricing, indicates to me they really appreciated my business and will provide superior service. Of course this will still have to be proved, but I look forward to giving them the chance.

Next, since I had not paid the deactivation fee to Waste Industries, I had to make sure it had been removed from my account. After all, I have protested in writing, have an open case with the BBB, and I do not intend on having an account with them to credit it to. It took me another three hours to get through to them on the phone. Not because the line was busy, but because after ringing off the hook, it would just go to a taped message directing you to their website for information. On the site they only stated what they did in the automated call.
Talk about being rude to your customers. What about those that don't have, or can't use the Internet? Or even worse, what if the caller was a potential new customer? This has to be one of the dumbest business decisions I've seen. With all the mistakes this company has made they deserve to go out of business.

Anyway, they finally answered the phone and I actually spoke to someone. The person I spoke with told me my account did not show any fees. It was like pulling teeth when I asked if they could send me a statement reflecting this. I politely explained that I have received a past due notice on this fee and I needed something to show I had a zero balance. This way I will be able to close my case with the BBB in a more favorable way. It was as though they are not able to send a statement unless you owe something. They finally agreed to send me a printout of my account. Also as a courtesy to them, I wanted to let them know I already switched to a new provider and would not be needing their services.

Let me know your experiences.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

More than just trash collection stinks in Gwinnett County

My interest and knowledge in the new plan for waste and recycling in Gwinnett has grown by leaps and bounds over the last month. My first post only touched on what really appears to be happening. I find it a bit amusing that Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful (GCB) was surprised ...

and is questioning the temporary injunction ordered by Judge Michael Clark yesterday. According to a document named SW_History.pdf, still available on their site, a similar ruling on July 16, 1990. This document states:

By the late 80’s, citizens and businesses were demanding even more convenient collection and recycling systems. The Gwinnett County Board of commissioners took action to meet these needs and updated the solid waste system.

In October, 1989 a new system was put into place. The new system:

* Required all residents to use a private hauler (some minor exceptions)

* Granted 7 year exclusive franchises vs. 1 year to private haulers

* Increased the monthly fees to $12.95/month, payable 3 months in advance with periodic price increases based on the Consumer Pricing Index

* Granted a $8.00/month fee to the disabled and senior citizens

* Provided for Gwinnett County to collect any unpaid fees thru a levy against serviced property

Some members of the private solid waste sector found this system unacceptable. On May 4, 1990, Independent Sanitation, an unauthorized solid waste hauling company, filed a lawsuit against the County to address their concerns.

On July 16, 1990, a judge in the Gwinnett County Superior Court ruled that the County’s 1989 solid waste ordinance was unconstitutional and void for the following reasons:
* No constitutional authority was given to the Board of Commissioners to take the action they did

* No bids were taken and this lessened the competition and encouraged a monopoly

* Citizen were required to use a designated hauler, not select a hauler of their choosing

* The County could not act as a debt collector for a private company

I guess they don't even read their own documents. Of course with all the uproar recently, the GCB site has removed many direct links to articles, like the one I quoted above. They are still there and as of today you can still find them using their own search function.

What adds to this case, and also makes it smell of corruption, is who the GCB is made up of. If you use that same search function and look for “advisory board” you will find many familiar names there. Many members of the board of directors are current county politicians, elected officials and sitting judges. Can you say conflict of interest? How could they not know this would be challenged? Is it any surprise why none of this was announced until 3 days after the election? Also, you should look at the amount of money involved. A portion of that monthly fee goes directly to GCB from the county. This portion alone is several millions of dollars. Then they want to collect fines as well as any revenue from recycling.

I say let's recall those responsible! A good site to keep up on this issue is

Let me know what you think in a comment.


Superior Court Grants Stay of Execution for Small Businesses

In Gwinnett County this has been a very hot topic since the beginning of November. I briefly introduced my thoughts in a post about Gwinnett County Monopolizing a Utility. Last night this was put on hold.

In short, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners hired a private non-profit organization (Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful) to manage and enforce a new waste disposal plan for the county. Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful split the county in to 2 regions, and awarded each to two trash haulers headquartered in Florida, Waste Pro and Advanced Disposal Services. Payment for these services would be standardized at one fee and added to your property tax bill. They would also enforce recycling by levying a fine of $500 to those who did not recycle.

Two small independent haulers, Southern Sanitation and Sanitation Solutions, filed an injunction against this plan in Gwinnett Superior court stating it would put them out of business. They specifically sited two issues. The first one is the legality of a private non-profit organization doing the county's business by enforcing a solid waste plan. The second, was with the unfair bidding process setup by Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful favoring large companies by requiring large bonds and fees.

Late yesterday, Judge Michael Clark of Gwinnett Superior Court granted a temporary injunction siding with the two smaller companies. Until full hearings are done to settle these issues, things will stay as they are.

The court stated that Gwinnett County did indeed delegate legislative authority to a private corporation by authorizing Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful to implement and enforce its waste plan. The court further stated that this was just unconstitutional. It stated the following about the new plan.

"As a matter of fact, the court finds that Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Services has the right to set rates for residential customers, to regulate and set fees for commercial customers, to set rates for registration of new customers, to provide enforcement by a sworn deputy sheriff for violation of the ordinances and agreement, and to choose exclusive franchise providers and service areas," "The court finds that all of these are governmental and not merely administrative functions."

Gwinnett County Clean and Beautiful has responded by saying they are still reviewing the ruling and considering legal alternatives. Coincidentally, the services site for Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful today stated “closed until further notice.” This is a relief for many Gwinnett citizens and at least two smaller haulers.

Those are the facts as they stand now. As for me, I totally applaud the ruling of Judge Michael Clark. But, I also just look at it as a stepping stone. In my next post, I will explain why this should not be a surprise to Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful and how this whole deal smells of Corruption.


A New Look!

Hi everyone. I know I haven't posted much lately, but I been a bit busy trying to make improvements. At least I think they are, and I hope you will agree. As you can tell, the site has change quite a bit. It is a modified version of a template provided by a site called Our Blogger Templates. Take a look around, I hope you will enjoy it. I still have some tweaks to do, but feel free to leave your comments. Especially if you have any questions.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Waste Industries Abandons Customers and Charges Them a Deactivation Fee

Even though this is a local issue in Gwinnett County Georgia, it could be affecting other unsuspecting customers in the United States. How can a company charge you a deactivation fee when they are discontinuing service? The company I’m referring to is Waste Industries, one of the largest Solid Waste Collection Agencies in the south, with reported annual revenue of over 100 million dollars. This is the company that I regretfully have had my service with.

In yesterdays’ post I gave a little background on a situation that is happening here in Gwinnet County Georgia. Gwinnett is limiting the number of trash collectors in unincorporated Gwinnett County to just two. We have had several trash collectors (one of which is Waste Industries) who either did not bid, or lost their bid, to continue service in Gwinnett County. I really wanted to give this post then, but I’m glad I waited until today. First of all I was able to give some background to those who are not aware, and secondly, there were some announcements made public this morning.

As you probably can tell by now, my service provider is/was Waste Industries. I received my final bill from them on Monday which should only reflect coverage through the end of the year. I was enraged when I saw the bill included a $23.50 deactivation fee. How could they charge this? I did not deactivate my service, they did. I was not in breach of contract in any way, and my bills were always paid on time. If anyone is in breach of contract it would be Waste Industries for not being awarded the contract through Gwinnett County. As far as I’m concerned they would still be welcome to pickup my trash if they had won the contract. Wanting to get to the bottom of this I wanted to check the Terms of Service on their web site. I found a big link just for those people in Gwinnett County. I found this following explanation from the CEO “Jim Perry” to be laughable.

Dear Valued Customer,

Waste Industries has enjoyed providing service in Gwinnett County for the past thirteen years and I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your loyal patronage. Regretfully, Gwinnett County has elected to take away your right to choose a waste hauler, and we will not be allowed to service you after December 31. Please be assured, however, that we fully intend to continue to provide outstanding service through the end of the year.

While we understand that this transition may cause you some inconvenience, please understand that this situation is solely a result of Gwinnett County’s action. We also ask that you consider the impact this will have on our local employees and their families. As a result of the County’s decision we are forced to close our Atlanta East branch. We are making every attempt to find jobs for these hard working men and women but, unfortunately, many of them will be without a job at the end of the year.

Your last invoice from Waste Industries will include an account deactivation fee. Please allow me to explain this charge. The modest $23.50 charge is a demobilization fee and not a rate increase. We regret being unable to issue advance notice of this fee, but Waste Industries was not informed that it had not been given the right to continue to provide service in the county until November 5. The short notice that we are now required to be out of the county by January 1 has placed substantial hardships on us. The fee addresses an array of additional costs and difficulties including, but not limited to:

• Demobilizing an entire branch.

• Extending employee COBRA health benefits beyond employment.

• Protecting a workforce that knows it will no longer be needed.

• Recovering assets.• Setting up call centers to deal with inevitable transition issues.

• Collection of accounts receivable in a short period of time.

As you can see from the examples above, the costs incurred by Waste Industries to demobilize will far exceed the amount it will receive through the deactivation fee.
We appreciate your understanding in this matter and hope to have the opportunity to serve you in the future.


Jim Perry, CEOWaste Industries

Mr. Perry guess what, those bullet points are called a cost of doing, or not doing business. Most of which you would still have if you continued service in Gwinnett or not. You address me as a “valued customer”, and you thank me for my “Loyal Patronage”. Do you think I am a fool? I guess you don’t value my being a customer enough to win the contract. It is also obvious that you don’t want my loyal patronage to write to, or petition, Gwinnett County on your behalf. Obviously, you want to show thanks to your “loyal customers” by sticking us with the bill that finances your cut and run. If you had been awarded the contract, or even a portion of it, would I still be a valued customer and be paid an appreciation fee? I would bet not!

Well, I am not about to take this laying down. I sent a firm, but polite email to Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful regarding this issue Tuesday. Shannon Waldo from GCB kindly responded to me on Thursday with the following:

As Gwinnett County noted publically yesterday, they officially notified Waste Industries that they have allegedly violated the Gwinnett County Solid Waste Ordinance by charging an unauthorized de-activation fee. We cannot advise you to pay the fee or to not pay the fee, all we can advise is to direct your inquiry back to Waste Industries. Gwinnett County has stated that it will take any and all actions authorized by the Ordinance and law, including calling waste Industries performance bond.

Shannon Waldo
Program Coordinator

Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Services, Inc.
770-822-5187 Phone
770-822-5179 Fax

I further inquired with her if any other company was trying to charge the same sort of deactivation fee. Her reply was that Waste Industries was the only one. I think if there was some sort of legal way to do this all of the companies would be doing it. I then called Waste Industries at a local number I found (678) 328-1650. I informed the person on the phone that I had no intention of paying that fee. He asked me for my address and said OK. He definitely did not want to talk about the issue but when pressed for some answers he would only say his company informed him it was totally legal for them to charge that fee. I don’t think this will be the end of it. This morning Benjamin Thomas, a lawyer representing Waste Industries, posted a reply to the allegation of Gwinnett County about Waste Industries violating a County Ordinance. In it, he defends the company’s action by stating, the additional fee does not fall subject to the ordinance because it is not an increase of the rate. He continues to threaten Gwinnett with legal action if they call in the $150,000 performance bond. The battle continues.

As for me, I have canceled my automatic bill payment and will be paying it manually. I don’t mind paying for services rendered, but my remittance will not include the deactivation fee. I will however include the following letter:

Dear Waste Industries,

Your attempt to levy a $23.50 deactivation fee to my final bill is unacceptable, and per Gwinnett County’s notification to you on 18-Nov-08, may not be legal, to the extent that they have mentioned revoking your $150K performance bond. Your response to this notification posted on your website today states that this is not a rate increase but an additional fee. I would have to argue. Per Mike Ingle, as interviewed by AJC, and Jim Perry CEO, this fee is to cover benefits to employees and other items related to loosing business in Gwinnett. These items as described are normally considered normal costs of doing business and are already reflected in your rate. I don’t mind if you keep your branches and employees in Gwinnett, so as far as I’m concerned you don’t have to fire anyone or shut anything down. Feel free to use these resources to service customers in neighboring areas where you are permitted to do business.

By no fault on my part were you unable to competitively bid for my business. If you and your employees are unable to continue my service due to contractual issues with the county, I was not in breach of any agreement. In fact, as a paying customer in good faith your fiduciary responsibility belongs to me, and if any breach of agreement has been committed, it would have been by your Company in failure to continue service. Gwinnett County may have given us both a raw deal. You lost my business and I lost the advantages of a free market. However, it is not my responsibility to recover your costs of doing business.

I explained my intention on this, to one of your representatives when I made a phone inquiry. He took my address and it was OK. I therefore, will pay my December bill as I always have, minus the $23.50.

I assure you if you try to impact my credit, place a lien against my property, or have a collection agent contact me, I will pursue legal action against you. I have been in contact with Gwinnett County regarding this as well, and I will be forwarding them a copy of this note later this morning.


Michael Gill

I can not tell you what will happen (or how this will end), but you are welcome to use any of my ideas in a response to Waste Industries. Please feel free to send a link to this post to anyone who might be affected.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gwinnett County Paying For a Monopolized Utility Through Property Taxes!

About ten days ago, a good friend of mine forwarded me an email informing me Gwinnett County will be going to a mandatory solid waste collection system in January 2009. Evidently, in April 2008, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners adopted, and approved a new plan that designated Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful (GCB Services, Inc.) to implement, manage and enforce a new enhanced waste and recycling program. This is supposed to increase recycling, reduce pollution and lead to a “clean and beautiful” Gwinnett County. While this should be a good thing, I always have a bit of skepticism and wonder what it will cost.

Currently in Gwinnett County it appears that everybody and their brother collects trash. Right now, in my neighborhood noisy and smelly trash trucks are running about everyday, and on some days, we have multiple companies and trucks coming through. To be honest, I see more trash trucks than school busses. This should indicate something is really wrong. But one could look at this and say, it is “capitalism at its best”. Several companies competing for your hard earned dollars. This competition should imply better service at a lower cost. Believe me, I am one of the largest supporters of capitalism and the free market society; and I love to see it at work. But, in the case of trash pickup where I live, this did not happen; even with so many choices. Without going into many details, it appears that mutual price fixing was the name of the game here. Over the last several years, service and quality have drastically reduced, while prices skyrocketed. The prices were about the same no matter who you called. You would think I would be happy about a change, but guess what?

Starting in January 2009, only 2 companies will be permitted to pickup trash in unincorporated Gwinnett County. Advance Disposal Service Atlanta LLC will cover the northern part of the county, and Waste Pro of Georgia will cover the southern part. Since the service demand for each of these suppliers will increase, the operational costs per pickup should be greatly reduced. As a result, this should be reflected in a better value. One major problem with this is it eliminates competition for the consumer business, even between these two companies. You are assigned your provider with no choice. This tells me that we are being forced to move from free market participation, to a government contracted monopoly. We all know what abuses can arise with monopolies, so I won’t cover that here. If being forced to be serviced by a monopoly isn’t bad enough, just wait it gets even worse. There will be a phase-in period. From January through June, customers will pay a $20.45 monthly fee directly to their new agency. Good enough, I can understand a company wanted to be paid for services rendered. After June a $17.86 monthly service fee will be added to their property tax bill. What? This can only spell trouble.

The only possible benefit this tax item could have would be it might slow those who illegally dump their trash, or use their neighbors’ trash cans, by enforcing trash collection on each county residence. The probability of this is slim at best. What it does do, is collect money for services NOT rendered. Let’s look at it. If I decide to move and still have this house up for sale, I will be charged for picking up trash that I’m not generating. I will be able to stop other utilities like water, power, gas, phone, cable and Internet. The house will be empty and I will not need them. I also will not be generating trash at that residence, so why should I have to pay for that service? What if I own the empty lot next to mine? Like many have done, it may have been purchased because I wanted to give my family more yard space. I will now have to pay twice for the use of one service. The list can be endless.
There are many more ways this form of payment for a utility is bad, let alone being forced into a monopoly. Please let me know some of your thoughts in a comment. I’m looking forward to here what you have to say.


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