Douglas judge rules against county on garbage issue

District Judge David Gamble has ruled Douglas County can't put construction waste companies out of business by claiming that material is covered by its sanitation franchise.

It is the second time in less than six months a district judge has ruled against a county on the issue. Washoe District Judge Peter Breen reached the same conclusion when Independent Sanitation tried to shut down companies hauling construction waste in the Incline Village area.

Douglas Disposal made the same argument, saying NJ Enterprises was violating terms of its contract with the county by hauling construction waste from development sites because its franchise agreement gives it exclusive rights to handle garbage "and other waste."

Contractors say they use independent haulers because the sanitation companies charge much more. The sanitation companies argue they don't have that option.

Gamble agreed with Breen's and similar decisions that the law wasn't designed to eliminate competition. He said those exclusive agreements were designed to cover waste that presents health hazards and, therefore, justifies limiting who can haul and dispose of it.

"There is no indication that, when the Nevada Legislature granted the authority to displace competition for the collection and disposable of garbage and other waste that it intended to include all types of solid waste, namely construction debris," he wrote.

"This court finds that non-putrescible construction debris is not injurious to the public health and, therefore, calls outside the county's police power to include in a waste-hauling exclusive franchise agreement."

In fact, he said applying the health rules to construction waste would be an unconstitutional restriction on those businesses.

Breen's ruling made similar arguments in the case of Empire, which provides debris removal for contractors in the Incline Village area. He said neither the Incline Village General Improvement District nor Independent Sanitation "has presented any evidence that the collection and disposal of construction waste at issue in this case presents any health or safety hazard."

Reno lawyer Treva Hearne, who represented the winning defendants in both cases, said the rulings are victories for free enterprise. She said not only do private haulers give contractors better prices, but they will pick up a load whenever the contractor wants, rather than on a set schedule.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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