Supreme Court upholds green box fees
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals held that Pocahontas County homeowners must pay a mandatory garbage collection fee, known as the “green box fee,” even if they don’t use the county-operated refuse collection dumpsters. Only homeowners who contract with private garbage haulers are exempt from paying the fee, which is $95 per year if paid in full on receipt.
In 2006, the Pocahontas County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) sued John Leyzorek, Doug Bernier and Charlotte Elza for non-payment of green box fees. The trio represented themselves in court and argued that they should not be billed for a service they do not use. The litgants claimed they recycle, compost and make use of free days at the local landfill to dispose of their trash. They also contended that the county doesn’t have the authority to assess a mandatory garbage collection fee.
Pocahontas County Circuit Court Judge James Rowe disagreed and awarded summary judgment to the SWA last October. The defendants petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeals to review Rowe’s decision. In a memorandum decision filed June 27, the Court upheld Judge Rowe’s ruling on every point.
Citing previous cases, the Court held that “an ordinance imposing a mandatory service fee on the collection and removal of residential refuse, regardless of actual use, in order to prevent a health menace from imperiling an entire community, is a reasonable and valid exercise of the police powers.”
The Court upheld the Circuit Court’s judgment against Bernier for $49 in unpaid green box fees for 2006, plus $150 in statutory penalties, plus costs and pre-and post-judgment interest; a judgment against Leyzorek for $498 in unpaid green box fees for 2001 through 2006, plus $900 in statutory penalties, plus costs and pre-and post-judgment interest; and a judgment against Elza for $498 in unpaid green box fees for 2001 through 2006, plus $900 in statutory penalties, plus costs and pre-and post-judgment interest.