Originally created 01/29/97

Augusta commissioners want to hear from citizens on garbage plan



Augusta commissioners want to hear what their constituents have to say about paying the government to contract with private haulers to pick up household garbage in suburban areas before proceeding with the plan.

A commission committee voted Tuesday to hold public hearings for input on the proposal for mandatory trash pickup that property owners would pay for through a uniform flat fee on their tax bills.

The committee wasn't as cautious about a resolution to form a new litter patrol to enforce littering and illegal dumping ordinances. Commissioners voted to recommend to the full board a six-deputy team that would be under the marshal's department.

Both proposals stem from a subcommittee formed to address illegal dumping, which many residents and officials say is a disgrace in the suburban area.

Administrator Randy Oliver said he's been amazed by the amount of illegal dumping throughout the county since coming to Augusta and considers the current system of residents contracting with independent garbage haulers an incentive to do so.

Rather than drive 10 to 12 miles to the landfill and pay a $30-per-ton tipping fee, some trash haulers are dumping trash down dirt roads, in fields and in abandoned areas.

"It's unfortunate we have people like that, but that's a reality," Mr. Oliver said.

Under mandatory pickup, everything - furniture and appliances included - would be picked up, and property owners would pay a special assessment on their tax bills that would eliminate the incentive to dump illegally, he said.

Other advantages to doing away with the current "hop-scotch approach" of trash collection in the suburbs would be economy to homeowners and less wear and tear on roads in neighborhoods by having one hauler coming in and out, Mr. Oliver said.

Business owners would have to show a contract with a hauler before a business licenses would be issued to them.

Commissioner J.B. Powell asked what the proposed system would cost "John Q. Citizen."

Mr. Oliver said, "it clearly will not be more costly than what they're paying now. It will be less costly."

Commissioner Bill Kuhlke asked why residents should pay a special assessment instead of having their trash cost be part of their total property tax bill. That way they could deduct the cost of garbage pickup from their income taxes, which those who contract with private haulers are not currently able to do.

City Attorney Jim Wall said he thought the assessment would be tax deductible.

Urban area property owners are taxed for garbage pickup as a part of their ad valorem taxes.

If commissioners eventually decide to implement the new system, it would go into effect in January 1998.

Commissioners Ulmer Bridges and Mr. Powell have scheduled a public meeting on the issue for residents of Districts 6 and 8 for Monday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Gracewood Community Center on Tobacco Road.