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Lee tax official wants garbage ordinance axed

LEESBURG -- W.F. Griffin, the chairman of the Lee County Board of Tax Assessors, will ask the Lee County Commission tonight to rescind an ordinance that would place fees for collection of solid waste in the county on citizens' tax bills.

County Administrator Tony Massey confirmed Monday that Griffin had been placed on the agenda for tonight's commission meeting.

"The recommendation to rescind the current garbage fee ordinance and reinstate the original implementing ordinance will be presented at the 12 July commission meeting at 6 p.m. at 102 Starksville Ave. N.," Griffin wrote in a release sent to The Herald. "The requested action, if approved, will allow the residents identified to receive services by the waste services agreement to be billed for their service.

"Further, it will require the commission to return full responsibility for direction and accountability of Lee County garbage service for the remaining 11 years of the (existing) contract (to the county's Utility Services Department). The experience gained over the past 14 years should be helpful."

The county has taken Lee Tax Commissioner Susan Smith to court in an effort to obtain a writ of mandamus that would force Smith to comply with a county ordinance placing garbage collection fees on year-end tax bills.

Smith has stated to the commission she will not comply with the ordinance.

Southwest Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge James Sizemore gave the county 20 days to file briefs on its motion during a June 21 hearing. Smith's attorney, Jerome Adams of Douglas, has 10 days to respond to the county's briefs, and Skipper has five days after that to respond to Smith's response.

"(The county's briefs) were about what I expected," Smith said Monday. "Mr. Adams and I have not discussed our response, but I'm sure we will soon."

Massey, meanwhile, said he's not aware of any new developments in the case other than Griffin's request to be placed on the agenda of tonight's commission work session.

"It's full speed ahead as far as the county is concerned," the administrator said.

"I haven't heard anything different from the folks I work for."

Griffin, meanwhile, said he had collected information from 14 of the 15 counties in the state that have ordinances similar to the one passed by the Lee commission.

"There are many differences in services, fees, exemptions and some legal issues (from county to county)," Griffin wrote. "There is one county -- Gwinnett, population 776,000-plus -- with fees higher than Lee County. The average cost of services for the 14 counties (however), is 41 percent less than the cost to Lee County citizens."

Asked Monday about the briefs filed by the county, Griffin said they were "a regurgitation of what the county's been contending all along, although there are some things in (the briefs) about (Smith)."

Griffin stopped short of making a call for Lee citizens to attend tonight's meeting, but he did say, "People's presence at the commission meeting will speak louder than the words I'm saying."