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Grayson sued over trash fee

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Landowner says county can't charge her for a service it hasn't rendered. The lawsuit comes after the county issued civil warrants for unpaid trash fees.

By Landmark News Service

READ THE LAWSUIT AND GRAYSON'S SOLID WASTE ORDINANCE

CLICK ON THE LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS STORY

INDEPENDENCE — An Elk Creek landowner, who also is an attorney, is suing Grayson County, claiming that officials arbitrarily denied her trash fee appeal and that the county is not allowed to charge a fee for a service it does not provide.
Amelia Bland Waller of Elk Creek filed the suit in Grayson County Circuit Court on Aug. 4.
Named in the suit are the Grayson County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator Jonathan Sweet, Assistant County Administrator Mitch Smith, Public Works Director Jonathan Luper and Treasurer Junior Young.
Both Sweet and Board of Supervisors' Chairman Larry Bartlett declined comment. Young did not immediately respond to an e-mail by deadline Monday.
Waller, who received a notice and copy of a warrant in debt for not paying the trash fee, asks that the court issue an injunction to restrain Grayson from assessing or collecting trash fees from her.
Grayson citizens said last week that they were upset after receiving a notice of delinquent trash fees and a copy of a civil warrant, even though they say they were not billed for garbage service. According to about a dozen citizens who called, e-mailed or wrote letters to the newspaper, they received a letter notifying them that their trash fee must be paid by Aug. 6, otherwise a warrant — a civil claim for money — will be issued.
If the warrant is issued, then the citizens will have to appear in Grayson County District Court.
According to the suit, Waller and her sister, Karen Bland Cooper Harris, inherited land from their father and no one has lived in the residence there for about 20 years. The home is not for rent or sale, she states.
Grayson's Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Ordinance allows the county to assess a fee on residential units. Waller argues that the home on the property in question does not meet the criteria for a residential unit, because the dwelling is “not intended to be used for living, sleeping, cooking and eating.” She also claims that the county has never collected nor disposed of trash from that home.
The claim states that Waller appealed the trash fee assessment of the property. Her appeal was denied by Public Works Director Jonathan Luper and Assistant County Administrator Mitch Smith on grounds that “This house appears to be vacated, not abandoned, and is deemed habitable.”
Waller says that the denial of her appeal was “arbitrary and capricious,” as other similar Grayson properties were declared “not habitable,” so property owners were not charged the fee.
“While the Board of Supervisors may rightfully assess a tax for services that are made available throughout the county, it is without legal authority to assess a fee against an individual property owner for services that it does not provide to that individual,” the claim states.
Last Wednesday, Waller also hand-delivered a letter to Treasurer Junior Young requesting that Young delay filing a warrant in debt against her until the matter is settled in circuit court.

CLICK ON THESE LINKS TO READ THE LAWSUIT AND THE TRASH ORDINANCE:

AttachmentSize
Trash Appeal.pdf1.24 MB
SOLID WASTE ORDINANCE.pdf91.81 KB