A proposal to beef up Statesboro’s penalty for leaving your garbage cart at the street after the collection day has evolved some during City Council discussions but appears set for two final votes during the 9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, council meeting.
The matter has followed a recent trend in which City Attorney Cain Smith and other staff members recommend keeping fee and fine amounts out of the wording of actual ordinances, which are city laws. Instead, the proposed amendment to the ordinance section on residential garbage collection, sent forward by a 5-0 vote of the council from the Nov. 21 meeting, strikes through the old provision for a $10 fine and states that the fine will be set in the city’s schedule of fees, rates and fines.
Tuesday’s agenda contains both the second reading of the ordinance amendment for possible final approval and a proposed amendment to the fees and fines schedule. If approved, the amendment to the schedule of charges will be the fourth this fiscal year, as written, would prescribe a $25 fine for leaving your garbage cart at the curb after collection day on the second or later violations. It would also, in an unrelated matter, establish a permit fee for operating an ice cream truck or similar business.
But not $50, now
Back on Nov. 1, the first draft of the proposed amendment to the garbage collection ordinance came to the council with a city staff cover letter recommending an increase in the fine for “failure to remove polycarts after the assigned collection date” to “$50 for first offense, $75 for second offense, and $100 for third and subsequent offenses.”
Council members said they supported an increase to get the attention of residents who leave their carts at the curb all of the time. But Councilwoman Paulette Chavers expressed concern that “50 bucks right out of the gate” seemed excessive. After City Manager Charles Penny said city employees would generally give a warning and ask for compliance before imposing a fine, Councilman Phil Boyum said he wanted to build a warning into the ordinance.
Penny then suggested a $25 fine and making any enforcement “complaint-driven or safety-driven.”
The version of the ordinance amendment voted forward by the council Nov. 21 states: “Action against violators of this section may be initiated by citizen complaint or upon safety concerns raised by city staff. Initial action shall be a warning from the City’s Code Compliance Department with subsequent violations being subject to a fine as set forth in the city’s schedule of rates, fines and fees.”
Established wording that will remain unchanged requires that residents place their garbage cart “at a curbside point designated by city sanitation officials” no earlier than 6 p.m. on the evening before the scheduled pick-up day and return the cart, when possible, to “locations not visible from the street or road” by 8 a.m. on the day after collection.
Citizens on both sides
During the hearing on the ordinance held as part of the Nov. 21 council session, Marcus Toole, Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County community outreach coordinator but speaking as an individual citizen, expressed objections. In lower-income neighborhoods where there are elderly people who cannot move the carts themselves or afford to have someone do it for them, stepped-up enforcement could “create a bigger trash problem,” he argued.
“One, the (carts) will not be there on the street, so people who are walking up and down the streets, a lot of them if they’re drinking a soda or eating a snack, the package goes on the ground already,” Toole said. “But sometimes, I notice when people walk in front of my house, it goes into my garbage (cart).”
So he said he doubts that the amendment and higher fine “will solve any problem that needs to be solved” in many low-income neighborhoods.
Penny, the city manager, and Mayor Pro Tem Shari Barr, who presided at the Nov. 21 meeting in Mayor Jonathan McCollar’s absence, noted that the city government offers assistance to residents who cannot roll the carts out and back.
“There is a policy in place – it may not be well enough known – that folks that have access issues or have mobility issues can call and request, and then the city staff actually goes and gets the trash can from the side of the house and puts it back,” Barr said.
Penny said the requirement to remove the carts from street right of ways serves a purpose for safety, as well as for the appearance of Statesboro and its neighborhoods.
“The reasons we don’t want rollout carts at the street: One, they’re unsightly. Two, in storms they become projectiles,” Penny said. “They need to be back at the house and just rolled out (for collection).”
Statesboro resident Sue Palmer, who had spoken to the council in mid-September, about “garbage cans that are being left out 24-seven” and asked that the fine be increased, spoke again during the Nov. 21 meeting. She had been talking to city officials about this concern for six months.
“I’ve got pictures and the garbage cans have been left on the sidewalk, and you’re right, it is totally unsightly, and it is a hazard,” she said.
What Palmer originally proposed in September was an increase to a $50 fine. She had also suggested charging it to owners of apartment complexes. But under the ordinance, fines are assessed on the resident or whoever else pays the city’s monthly utility bill for an address, and that would remain unchanged.
Another citizen, Don Armel, also spoke in favor of the amendment, and noted that Statesboro has “lots of rentals.”
“And since we’re talking about warnings at this point, I think there are two people that could be warned,” he said. “One is the person renting the house, and the second is the owner of the property itself.”
Any substantial change to the ordinance amendment would require starting over with a first reading, unless council by a unanimous vote waived that requirement. But council could set the fine Tuesday at the single $25 level or some other amounts without a new hearing.
“Council can spell it out further when adopting the fee schedule if they wish,” City Clerk Leah Harden confirmed Friday.