Residents who came out to the Rockdale County Trash Collection Town Hall hosted by Commissioner Oz Nesbitt on Tuesday spoke overwhelmingly against the idea of mandatory trash pickup service in the county, asking to keep the free market system of private haulers and the county's recycling center the way it is.
About 30 residents, mainly homeowners, attended the town hall held at the J.P. Carr Community Center.
Currently, county residents can contract with any private hauler or can make use of the county's recycling center on Sigman Road, where it is free to bring recyclables or yard debris and it costs to bring trash.
The city of Conyers has mandatory trash and recyclables pickup and recently bid those services out to a single private provider, Pratt Industries.
Nesbitt said the county was not moving towards a mandatory system but that the town hall was simply a chance to get public input on different options of trash collection. The topic had been brought up at the Board of Commissioners meetings in recent months in response to code enforcement difficulty with homes where trash was dumped and piled high in the backyards or residents who illegally and regularly used commercial dumpsters.
Commissioner JaNice Van Ness, who had held her own meetings with residents and haulers, had previously pointed out a zoned system might reduce the number of trips dump trucks had to take through neighborhoods. After her meetings, however, where she also reported feedback in support of keeping the current system, she concluded she would not propose any changes.
On Tuesday, Nesbitt reassured the audience, "I would not support forcing or mandating that someone has to participate in the program. We're exploring... I simply wanted to hear from the citizens of Rockdale County." He cited Snapping Shoal EMC's "Round Up" program as an example where customers can opt out.
One resident pointed out, "I think one misconception is that if we have all this garbage pickup that it's going to clean up Rockdale." He cited his neighbor on Smyrna Road as an example. "He's got one of these tall green containers... but he can't get it from those containers to the street, that's not 30 feet away."
Another said he did not want to be forced to pay for trash pickup because recycled and reduced and had very little trash. Another resident said she liked the option of being able to fire her garbage pickup service if she wanted.
Resident Judy Faulk said her driveway was 0.2 miles long and she could not drag her trash bin all the way down it. "If you had breast cancer, you cannot do that. It's so much easier to take that one little bag to the recycle center. If you're a senior citizen, you're going to the hospital once a week anyway."
Gerry Byrd said she was satisfied with the hauling company she used. "The county couldn't save me a penny and probably cost me a lot more."
"If it's not broke, don't fix it," said resident Dennis Lynch.
Chuck Boelkins, who managed the Rockdale Recycling Center for 10 years and served in waste management for the Ga. Dept. of Natural Resources,
Sue Chappel asked audience members to send their complaints on trashy-homes and repeat code enforcement violators to not just the commissioners but to the Magistrate Judge as well.
"When the judge dismisses (these cases) then we have lost the teeth of the code," Chappel said
About eight representatives from trash and recycling hauling companies were present, from smaller companies to large corporations such as Waste Management.
Tim Biddy, of Curbside Waste Systems, pointed out that the smaller haulers have an actual relationship with their customers and will treat them like individuals, not just numbers.
One attendee, who claimed to represent a national waste management company that handled contracts on several military bases, slipped out during the meeting pretending to talk on a phone that was not turned on.
Nesbitt said he had not decided if he would hold another town hall, but urged residents to let their wishes be known to all three commissioners. "When you don't get involved, the people you've put in place to make decisions tend to do what they want to do," he said.