LEESBURG — The agenda item at Tuesday's Lee County Commission meeting promised a possible shift in the commission's position on an as-yet unenacted garbage fee ordinance that has confounded the board and angered citizens since its passage in May of 2009.
The item: "Consideration to amend the Garbage Ordinance."
Citizens hoping for a rumored repeal of the ordinance, which requires the county's tax commissioner to place garbage fees on ad valorem tax bills but is pending while the Georgia Supreme Court considers a challenge by Tax Commissioner Susan Smith, were disappointed when Commissioner Dennis Roland asked that the board table the matter.
"We need to make changes in this ordinance," Roland said. "But I'd like to table the matter until our February work session (Feb. 14) while (County Administrator) Mr. (Tony) Massey checks with other counties about ways to incorporate the changes."
Roland has suggested the board come up with a fee schedule that will exempt low-income citizens from paying the garbage fees, which are currently set at $23 monthly. But many in the community have asked the commission to scrap the ordinance altogether, and chairwomen of both the Lee Democratic and Republican parties have indicated both will have questions on their July 31 ballots asking voters if they favored rescinding the ordinance.
No matter the outcome of the vote, the ballot questions are nonbinding. The commission could ultimately ignore the vote, or it could choose to abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court, which is expected to hear the appeal this month. Two sources close to members of the commission have indicated the board is leaning toward rescinding the ordinance if the July 31 vote is overwhelmingly in favor of such action, even if the Supreme Court sides with the county.
Clouding the matter further is the political fate of three members of the commission: Bill Williams, Rick Muggridge and Betty Johnson, each of whom is up for re-election. Williams is the only incumbent who has drawn announced opposition, from Marine veteran Greg Frich, although the rumor mill indicates all three could face opponents when May 21-25 qualifying kicks in.
"I think we should table this issue until we research it thoroughly, but we are going to address it," Roland said before the meeting. "This is an important issue, one that is definitely on the minds of citizens of this county."
In other action at the meeting, the commission approved a on-premises pouring alcohol license for Dale Saunders at his Riverfront II BBQ & Catfish House at 1533 U.S. Highway 19 South and voted to approve staff recommendation to hire personnel for in-house janitorial services.
In offering the motion, Commissioner Rick Muggridge said, "I'd like to note that this board very much appreciates Sheriff Reggie Rachals' commitment to provide inmate labor to help with janitorial services."
The board also voted to allow Public Works $31,800 in Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax V funding for a 24-by-28-foot office building to replace a delapidated structure that has been used by the department, according to Director Mike Sistrunk, since the 1980s.