The Lowndes County Commission said there will be a public hearing on their proposed $108 million budget at 5PM, Tuesday, June 11, 2019 (today). That public hearing is on the county’s online calendar. They also said the budget included a new trash collection division, and they were considering using that to replace Keep Lowndes-Valdosta Beautiful (KLVB).
But the meeting at which that Tuesday Budget Public Hearing was announced, which was some time Wednesday afternoon, May 29, 2019, is nowhere on lowndescounty.com that I can find, not in the calendar, news, or agendas, and they said nothing about it the previous day in their Work Session and Regular Session, both on that Tuesday. Also, I received no notification of the Wednesday meeting, even though I’m signed up for such things. We only know of it because of County proposes budget, litter program, Thomas Lynn, Valdosta Daily Times, 30 May 2019. I’d guess the county did only the minimum state law requires: a notice in front of the building and notification of the newspaper.
Apparently in that unannounced Wednesday meeting Commissioners also proposed a mew county litter program, that “would take calls from residents, document them through work orders then transfer them to employees for completion, according to county documents,” says the VDT story. These county documents also do not appear to be on the county’s website. LAKE will file an open records request for them.
The VDT explained:
Commissioners at the work session Wednesday said if the new program does well, the county may consider replacing Keep Lowndes-Valdosta Beautiful (KLVB) with it.
County Manager Joe Pritchard said the county has the ability to eliminate KLVB or designate another agency to be the service provider for the county’s litter program.
“We’re creating a program that is directly under your supervision that is able to respond more efficiently to the request that (the commissioners) have made,” Pritchard said.
It wasn’t KLVB that produced this litter problem. The county did that, back on December 11, 2012, when it passed a solid waste ordinance closing the county’s five waste collection centers and assigning a trash collection monopoly to Advanced Disposal Services (ADS) of New York City, followed by years suing all the way to the state Supreme Court to try to stop homegrown Deep South Sanitation (DSS) from also having a waste collection franchise. Now both ADS and DSS will sell you a trash pickup service, but that costs far more than the county’s previous collection centers did, and many people just throw stuff by the road instead. They shouldn’t do that, but the county created the situation in which they do it.
According to Jason Shaefer, VDT, Concerns continue over garbage agreement: Business owner argues case against County,
“That was paid for out of other incorporated revenues slated to go to services,” County Clerk Paige Dukes said. “Things like other licenses and fees like occupational taxes, alcohol license fees and other permits.”
Property taxes do not go to Advanced Disposal now, nor have they ever gone to solid waste disposal services. Georgia law prevents County governments from using property tax dollars to pay for waste services.
The opposite is actually true. Georgia law actually says, since HB 489 of 1999 modified Georgia code to add in 36-70-24 (emphasis added):
(3)(A) The strategy shall ensure that the cost of any service which a county provides primarily for the benefit of the unincorporated area of the county shall be borne by the unincorporated area residents, individuals, and property owners who receive the service. Further, when the county and one or more municipalities jointly fund a county-wide service, the county share of such funding shall be borne by the unincorporated residents, individuals, and property owners that receive the service.
(B) Such funding shall be derived from special service districts created by the county in which property taxes, insurance premium taxes, assessments, or user fees are levied or imposed or through such other mechanism agreed upon by the affected parties which with the intent of subparagraph (A) of this paragraph;
At the same December 2012 meeting in which the county closed its trash collection sites, it also approved four Special Tax Lighting Districts. So the county obviously knows how to do what state law explicitly authorizes for services to residents of unincorporated parts of the county, including for trash collection service: to levy special property taxes.
But now the county proposes a new county division that (according to the recent VDT story):
will be responsible for overseeing the removal and pick up all litter and items associated with illegal dumping. Employees in this division will respond to and investigate resident complaints and patrol for illegal dumping, have routes established and patrolled to perform preventative control, according to county documents.
How is this new division to be funded? Why couldn’t the same funding have been used to pay for the county’s previous collection centers? And where are these county documents?
As I suggested six years ago, the VDT should dig deeper into county trash.
Investigative reporting costs money, for open records requests, copying, web hosting, gasoline, and cameras, and with sufficient funds we can pay students to do further research. You can donate to LAKE today!