Statesboro City Council on Tuesday moved a proposal forward that could increase the fine for leaving a garbage cart at the curb after the collection day from the current $10. But the new first-offense fine will apparently be $25, and not the $50 suggested in a staff memo and previously by a citizen.
Statesboro resident Sue Palmer spoke to the council Sept. 19, about “garbage cans that are being left out 24-seven” by residents in the city. Palmer said she saw five polycarts left out every Sunday at apartments on East Main Street.
“I would like for y’all to impose, instead of $10, increase that to $50, and impose it on the owner of the complex, and that’s where the responsibility belongs, you know, the responsibility for the grass, the maintenance and everything else,” Palmer said to the council.
Also, she said she furnished pictures to city staff of garbage carts left out on Coach Lee Hill Boulevard, commenting that the city “could make $5,000 a month easy, there,” with an increased fine on apartment owners. But the real purpose, she said, would be to get their attention and have the garbage carts put away.
“You’ve got to make our Statesboro a beautiful city for people to live in,” Palmer said. “People don’t like trash, and that’s what it is. It’s a trash can.”
The current ordinance section on residential garbage collection refers only to responsibilities of residents and does not refer to property owners as such.
A memo dated Nov. 1 and included as a cover to a draft ordinance amendment in the mayor and council’s packets for the Nov. 7 meeting included a city staff recommendation for 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.”
That also was the version City Manager Charles Penny first described during the meeting. But some council members expressed concerns.
“So, what you’re indicating to me is that, just say I push my trash can out and I forget to come back and get it, if I forget it that one time, I am fined $50,” said District 2 Councilwoman Paulette Chavers.
“You could be, but more than likely not – I think if it was a habitual problem,” Penny said. “My approach would be, first time probably just give you a warning and simply say, ‘Can you move your cart back,’ and then more of a progressive approach (from) our employees.”
But in some places, the carts can be seen “lining the street,” and this appears to have become a normal practice, he said.
Penny added that “it doesn’t have to be $50,” but that “$10 probably doesn’t get their attention.” He then suggested $25 as a starting point.
District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum said he agreed with Chavers that “50 bucks right out of the gate” seemed excessive. He also suggested making it a policy to attempt to obtain voluntary compliance first.
“One, there’s not a ton of this that’s a problem. Two, it’s typically a neighbor-on-neighbor kind of thing, and they’re forcing the city to kind of get involved in the middle of it,” Boyum said. “So as a result, let’s just make it as nice for these folks. Not everybody knows the rules. Send the code enforcement out to make contact with them. Once that happens, if they become obstinate at that point, then we can go with the fines.”
Penny noted that enforcement action does not have to begin with a complaint but that a problem can be observed by supervisors in the solid waste collection service and referred to the city’s code compliance officers.
“I don’t have a problem with recommending that we set the initial fee at $25 and whether you want to have it be progressive, it doesn’t really matter,” Penny said. “It just needs to be a little bit more than $10.”
Boyum said he would like for the enforcement action to be “complaint driven or safety driven.”
When District 5 Councilwoman Shari Barr asked about a location the council had heard complaints about, Assistant City Manager Jason Boyles said the city staff had “provided written warning to everyone in the area.”
“We gained compliance that way. No citations were issued,” Boyles said.
No amount specified
Penny said the staff would make adjustments and bring the proposed ordinance amendment back. Mayor Jonathan McCollar asked for a motion on what was listed as a first reading of the amendment. Ordinarily, a first-reading majority vote sends an ordinance or amendment forward to a second reading and final adoption at a later council meeting, provided changes are not substantial enough to require a new first reading.
When McCollar asked if it were appropriate to vote the proposal forward “for a first reading, with council recommendations,” City Attorney Cain Smith said it was. District 4 Councilman John Riggs made the motion, District 3 Councilwoman Venus Mack seconded, and the vote was 5-0.
In fact, the ordinance draft itself did not contain any new dollar amounts for the fines. A sentence referring to the previous $10 fine was struck through, and this new sentence added: “Failure to remove a cart by 8:00 a.m. on the day after the assigned collection date shall result in a fine per each occurrence as set forth in the schedule of fees.”
So, the council could adopt the ordinance and set the fine separately in the schedule of fines and fees.
The earlier, unchanged part of the ordinance still says that residents shall place their carts “at a curbside point designated by city sanitation officials no earlier than 6:00 p.m. for pick up the next day.”