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Atlanta’s proposed solid waste rate hike, limits on appeals deferred on run-off election day

Boone, corridor clean-up

Atlanta residents picked up trash normally gathered by sanitation workers. (File/Photo provided by Andrea Boone)

By David Pendered

The runoff election in Atlanta Tuesday got in the way of efforts to resolve the city’s solid waste fee structure after a $19 million legal settlement, ongoing funding shortfalls and complaints that yard waste isn’t picked up in a timely fashion.

The proposal raises rates for residential trash pickup, to $409.55 per year, effective July 1, 2022. A new section establishes procedures for administrative hearings that must be followed before a lawsuit is filed in court. The entire section that triggered the $19 million settlement was removed.

The Atlanta City Council’s Utilities Committee didn’t have a quorum Tuesday morning. The scheduled public hearing was canceled, as was all discussion of the proposal to revise charges for solid waste collection and recycling.

Currently, the City Council plans to take up the proposal at its last scheduled meeting of the year, Dec. 6. The process could be lengthy at a meeting that’s likely to have a full agenda, given that it’s the last scheduled meeting this year of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and several councilmembers. Departing officials have been known to bid farewell at these final gatherings.

The process to consider the proposal calls for the full council to conduct the public hearing that did not occur Tuesday. This includes hearing all public comments submitted on two occasions — those were already submitted on Monday evening, and a second round of public comment that will be open Dec. 5 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Following public comments, all City Council members can speak about the proposal. Then a series of votes will be called, leading to passage or failure of the proposal.

This revision in the rate structure was proposed after the City Council agreed to a $19 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by owners of commercial and multi-family properties. The lawsuit was filed after new fees were imposed in a revision of rates in 2019.

The owners who filed the lawsuit contend that owners, citywide, had paid a total of almost $80 million that was illegally assessed. The owners and city agreed in October to the settlement to resolve the case, “McKillips, et al. v. City of Atlanta,” filed in Fulton County Superior Court.

Even before Tuesday’s delay, the City Council had been in a hurry to enact the new rate structure before the end of the year. Finance Committee Chair Jennifer Ide submitted the paper Nov. 1. The paper was considered Nov. 9 by the Utilities Committee and was due for expected adoption Tuesday, following a public hearing before the committee. The last option is to have the matter considered by the entire council on Dec. 6, acting as a Committee of the Whole.

The debate is playing out on change.org on a page attributed to “End Atlanta’s Unfair Solid Waste Fees.” The page reports 982 signatures. Statements in the petition, edited for length, contend: “I support repeal of the frontage fees and multi-family unit fees wrongly imposed since 2019 on owners of condominiums, apartments, townhomes, and institutional and commercial properties under the existing solid waste ordinance…” and “Limitations on taxpayer appeals against the City are unacceptable.”

Note to readers: Atlanta property owners may submit comments on the proposed revision on Sunday, Dec. 5, by calling 404-330-6057 between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and leaving a message.

David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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