LEESBURG, Ga. — Lee County voters, it now seems almost certain, will have an opportunity to voice their opinion at the ballot box on the county’s ordinance that calls for garbage fees to be included on end-of-year ad valorem tax bills.
The chairwomen of the Lee County Democratic and Republican parties told The Albany Herald Friday that it is all but a certainty that primary ballots for the July 31 election will include questions concerning the solid waste ordinance passed by the Lee County Commission on May 12, 2009.
That bit of legislation, which has not yet been implemented because Tax Commissioner Susan Smith has refused to comply, is awaiting a ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals. Lee Superior Court Judge James Sizemore ruled in August of 2011 that the ordinance is legal under Georgia law, but Smith has appealed.
Lee Elections Supervisor Veronica Johnson confirmed Friday that Georgia elections law (21-2-284(d) allows for political parties to submit to its members any matter or question that may be included on primary ballots. If approved by the party leadership, those questions may be posed on the ballot but are nonbinding.
“The Democratic party has already given notice that they will seek to have a question about the garbage fees placed on the ballot in July,” Johnson said. “They must submit to this office a list of qualified candidates after qualifying concludes on May 25, and at that time they may submit questions to be placed on the ballot.
“The questions are nonbinding, but they may certainly serve as a survey that can be used by the County Commission. If nothing else, such questions are a great way to gauge public interest in an issue.”
Lee Democratic Party Chairwoman Trish Batten said local party leaders met Tuesday and overwhelmingly supported the inclusion of the question “Should the Lee County Board of Commissioners rescind the solid waste ordinance placing the collection of garbage fees on the annual property tax bill?”
“This issue is of great concern for many in the community, particularly renters and geriatrics,” Batten said. “We think having this question on the ballot will put pressure on the board of commissioners to reconsider the ordinance.
“It is my understanding that members of the Republican party are considering a similar question on their ballot. I think this is an issue that is important to all citizens of Lee County, no matter which party they’re a part of.”
Lee Republican Party Chairwoman Deborah Gleaton said she’s been asked to place the issue on the agenda of her party’s next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 23, and she expects a vote to follow.
“We don’t have to make a formal request until after qualifying, but we’ll most likely go ahead and vote on it,” Gleaton said. “I don’t want to predict how things will go because I am part of a committee, but I don’t know of any reason why we wouldn’t agree to move forward with this. I think it’s something everyone wants to see happen.
“I’m glad we’re approaching this in a civilized and organized fashion. It should get the attention of our commission and hopefully, assuming the question is on the ballot, it will put the issue to rest one way or the other.”
Commission Chairman Ed Duffy said Friday the board would address the inclusion of the question on the ballot when and if it is approved by the Elections office.