On yard waste offenses, city officials debate root of problem

City officials mull fines for yard waste offenders. First, they have to agree on who is causing the problem.

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proposed modifying the municipal code to include, among other things, limitations on how long piles of green waste may be left on city streets ahead of scheduled pick up days and the type of punitive action that can be taken against offenders who violate the ordinance. “Right now, we have nothing to enforce people leaving their green waste out for seven days,” Scianna said. Proposed penalties would “give us some teeth to implement fines that are defined by the council.” DOCUMENT: Read the prepared staff report discussed at the city council meeting Many on the council expressed reservations about fining homeowners over the issue, though, with some saying the cause of the problem had more to do with the scheduled pick-up dates that they claimed were accommodating to certain residents more than others. Currently, Waste Management collects waste in green yard bins once every other week, with yard waste street pile pickup once a month until November when the street pile pickups increase to once per week through the end of January. Under the proposed modifications, piles of yard waste left on the street would only be permitted seven days before the scheduled pick up, with fines for residents who leave their piles out ahead of the seven-day window. Mayor Bill Biasi said the council received a letter from a resident that said that “once a month (pickup) is not adequate street pickup” and that the green bins provided by Waste Management were not enough to accommodate for their yard waste collection. Council member Jesse Loren agreed with the letter, saying that her land generates a copious amount of yard waste in months that have just one street pile pick-up. Loren said the months that have weekly pick up mostly accommodated those who lived in areas with a significant amount of leaf drop. “I know many people here on the council live in the downtown, tree-lined area, but the whole of Winters has a need for pick-up,” Loren said, adding that she felt the town was subsidizing street pile collection dates for those who lived in the downtown area at the expense of rural neighbors. “If you have driven down my street, there’s just enormous piles — giant, nine-foot piles — several of them,” Loren said. “I’m sure it’s not unique to my street, but if you have trees or a larger lot, you might have slightly different needs than the leaf-drop people.” blank Loren noted that there are 22 street pick-up dates through 2019 and offered three different proposals: The first would modify the collection calendar to add two dates every other week with collection every week between November and the end of January. The second proposal would keep the current amount of dates, but redistribute them for street pick-up to every two weeks. And the third proposal, which she called the “most-conservative…that I think the city manager would like,” would remove one date in November, December and January and move them to April, May and June. City Manager John Donlevy didn’t address the proposals right away, saying the council’s discussion was “chipping away” at the issue and that the people who are most likely to put their yard waste in the middle of the street were an “anomaly.” “When you put stuff and you pile trash in the street, you’re putting trash in the street, and that’s considered pollution,” Donlevy said. “When people have piles of trash in the neighborhood, it just makes the neighborhood look trashy.” Donlevy said on top of yard waste, residents have been known to mix in items like coffee filters and other garbage that ultimately wind up in storm drain inlets. “That’s not inexpensive,” he said. “That puts an enormous cost on the stormwater side of things.” “For every person that’s really happy with the idea that they get to pile their green waste in the street, there’s someone going, hey, my neighbor has a constant pile of trash in the street,” Donlevy said. Loren disagreed with his statement, saying that accusing residents of putting trash in the street “inaccurately portrays my neighbors and puts them in a bad light.” “When my neighbors put ‘trash’ on the street, they’re putting tree debris in the street,” Loren said. In an e-mail with the Express, she said the worst offenders of clogged storm drains actually come from people who put their lawn clippings in street piles instead of green totes. “Grass clippings are the egregious offenders because people often use nitrogen laden fertilizers which contaminate our water,” Loren said. “People need to be more informed and compliant with the waste guidelines, and I believe the city needs to be more responsive to the needs of the rate payers.” Donlevy and other members of the city council agreed that further public education on the matter was needed. The discussion was tabled to a future date with no vote on the matter.  ]]>

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