Georgia Supreme Court Rules on Deep South Sanitation Case

| September 23, 2014

court-room-judge-verdict-scales-of-justiceCOURT REVERSES LOWER COURT DECISION; COUNTY HAS RIGHT TO STOP DEEP SOUTH’S OPERATIONS

ATLANTA — The Supreme Court of Georgia has reversed a lower court’s decision and ruled that Lowndes County has the right to stop a private company from continuing to provide curbside residential trash service because it violates a new local ordinance.

Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter stated that ultimately, Lowndes County is responsible for providing solid waste management in unincorporated Lowndes County in order to protect the public health, safety and welfare of citizens. Due to service delivery strategy legislation adopted by the Georgia General Assembly in 1997, local governments must negotiate a Service Delivery Strategy Agreement to eliminate the duplication of funding as related to service delivery. In Valdosta-Lowndes County, it was determined that since City of Valdosta residents fund curbside pickup for the incorporated area, unincorporated Lowndes County would be funded via user fees.

Prior to Feb. 1, 2013, Lowndes County had never provided curbside solid waste collection services to residents. Rather, the County operated six solid waste collection centers where residents of the County’s unincorporated areas could bring solid waste upon purchase of an authorization card that cost $100 a year, according to briefs filed in the case. About half the county’s 12,000 residents in unincorporated areas availed themselves of the County’s waste collection centers. The remaining residents contracted with three private companies that provided curbside residential trash service. Those companies were Deep South Sanitation, LLC, All-Green Services, LLC, and Veolia ES Solid Waste Southeast, Inc., which was the predecessor of Advanced Disposal Services Middle Georgia, LLC. Deep South had been providing curbside service since Oct. 15, 2011. It is a small company that serves about 500 residents and employs the owner, his wife, children and two other employees.

The County realized it was losing money on the six collection centers about $400,000 a year and it began considering alternatives. In August 2012, the County issued a Request for Proposals, soliciting proposals for curbside residential solid waste collection services in the county’s unincorporated areas. The Request for Proposals required that each proposal include a $25,000 check and that the bidder commit to serving all of the estimated 12,000 residents in unincorporated Lowndes County. Five proposals were submitted. Deep South, which claimed it did not have the cash available to pay the bid bond, or the equipment and manpower to serve all 12,000 residents, did not submit a bid.

In December 2012, the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners adopted an ordinance authorizing an exclusive franchise for the collection of solid waste from residential customers in the county’s unincorporated areas. The ordinance prohibited the provision of solid waste collection services without a franchise or temporary permit. At the same time it adopted the ordinance, the Board also approved a franchise agreement granting Advanced Disposal Services an exclusive franchise for the services. Both the franchise and ordinance became effective Feb.1, 2013. Meanwhile, Deep South continued offering its services, even though it did not have a franchise or permit.

On April 24, 2013, the County sued Deep South, seeking an injunction to prohibit it from providing residential solid waste collection in unincorporated Lowndes County in violation of the ordinance. Advanced Disposal Services, which was allowed to intervene as a party in the case, also filed a complaint seeking an injunction against Deep South. Deep South responded that enforcement of the ordinance would result in an unconstitutional taking of private property, violate its due process rights, and create an illegal monopoly. Following a hearing, the trial court ruled against the County and Advanced Disposal Services, finding that an injunction would violate Deep South’s rights because Deep South operated the business prior to the enactment of the Ordinance and execution of the Exclusive Franchise Agreement. The trial court also ruled that enforcement of the ordinance against Deep South was prohibited under the Sherman Antitrust Act. The County and Advanced Disposal Services then appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.

In today’s unanimous opinion, Chief Justice Hugh Thompson writes that we conclude the trial court erred by holding that enforcement of the ordinance against Deep South would violate its due process rights.

Regulation of the collection of solid waste serves the legitimate public purpose of protecting the public health, safety, and welfare, the opinion says. The County chose to enter into an exclusive franchise agreement because it offered the best opportunity to provide curbside collection of solid waste, yard waste, and recycling in a cost-effective and uniform manner to all of its residents in the unincorporated areas, thereby discouraging illegal dumping in the county. The ordinance’s authorization of an exclusive franchise relates to the County’s goal of providing complete, uniform, and affordable solid waste collection services to Lowndes County residents living in the unincorporated areas of the county.

In response to Deep South’s argument that the ordinance creates an illegal monopoly, the high court points out that, it is well-established that local governmental entities are immune from antitrust laws when engaged in anti[-]competitive conduct pursuant to a clearly expressed state policy. Therefore, the trial court also erred in denying injunctive relief on the grounds that enforcement of the ordinance was prohibited by the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Attorneys for Appellants (County): Walter Elliott, James Elliott, Robert Norman

Attorney for Appellee (Deep South): Robert Plumb, Jr.

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6 Comments on "Georgia Supreme Court Rules on Deep South Sanitation Case"

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  1. Sharon Ewing says:

    I have never had such good service as Dee p South gives!! And I have never been told who I had to use to pick up my trash!!
    I resent the fact that this locally owned company’s lively hood is threatened! I resent the county telling me what I have to do! Where is our free choice????

  2. Jack Clark jr says:

    just goes to show you how money hungry the country is . what’s wrong with this man making a living for his family and I know for a fact that no other trash company would come and get your can at your house if it was pouring down rain and it was not out by the road like deep south sanitation does. leave this man alone.

  3. kenneth says:

    Shame on lowndes county….

  4. Concerned Citizen says:

    What a shame on Lowndes County! I urge all citizens to remember this story come election time. These money hungry leaches are raising property taxes and telling us who to use for our trash pickup? This is a joke right? Where’s the free will of choice? This is unconstitutional!!!

  5. Papi says:

    REMEMBER THIS ARTICLE WHEN YOU GO TO THE POLL ON NOVEMBER 4, 2014. WE NEED TO RID THE LOWNDES COUNTY COMMISION OF THE CORRUPTION!!!

  6. Rex says:

    The county should enforce litter and unsanitarian condition laws. LET THE FREE MARKET COMPETE FOR GARBAGE SERVICE. For crying out loud people, vote these clowns out of office and get your liberties back or are you too dumb to chose your own garbage collector? (That’s what your county commissioner thinks!)