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Lancaster public hearing on proposed “Garbage Containment” Law
By Lee Chowaniec
Oct 19, 2006, 19:23
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On Monday evening, Lancaster held a public hearing to get resident input on their proposed Local Law of 2007 entitled “Garbage Containment.”

The town proposes to amend Chapter 25, “Garbage, Rubbish and Refuse” and add Article IV to the Code of the Town of Lancaster. The local law would be enacted “to ensure public health, safety and welfare would be ensured in that all garbage containers other than recyclables shall be properly secured on all premises and shall be placed at the curb for pickup with the lid secure so that there is no open container which may attract rodents and vermin.”

Before residents were able to comment, Supervisor Robert Giza informed the attendees that the first alert on rodents migrating from the City of Buffalo and into first and second ring municipalities came approximately six months ago.

Giza claimed that at that time a county report indicated that there were only three rat sightings in Lancaster. “Since that report, everybody in our town is seeing rats,” said Giza. “It would cost the town $800,000 to supply every household with one tote if we went the way some other towns are going to combat the rodent problem. Some people require more than one tote. We are here to discuss how to reasonably address the problem.”

Before recognizing resident Don Symer as the first speaker, Giza commended Symer on the correspondence he had submitted regarding the garbage containment law proposal. “Following his recommendation, I believe the town could save a lot of money and be out of the rat business,” said Giza.

Symer requested Town Attorney Richard Sherwood change the language of the proposed law to better define what constituted garbage (putrescible and non-putrescible) and the how enforcement would be met and penalties doled out. “Policing could be a chore,” stated Symer. “In total, revision is in order and an ad hoc committee should be formed.”

In his correspondence to the Town Board, Symer opined “requiring garbage in covered cans is unwise for several reasons:

* Living where I live for the past 50 years, I have lost dozens of garbage cans on windy days and have never seen a rat in the area. Blowing garbage cans and lids are a public safety hazard with vehicles trying to avoid them. This past Monday, with top wind speeds of only about 25 mph, a neighbor and I retrieved and returned several blowing cans to their owners.

* To effectively address a potential rodent problem, the Town should instead focus on how garbage is stored outdoors prior to its being placed curbside. When garbage is allowed to remain outdoors for as much as six days per week and not in covered cans, food exposure to rodents is obvious. Use of covered and lids should certainly be required at that time because rodents then have a very opportune time. Rodents don’t limit their travel to within the confines of a highway right of way.

* Some residents routinely place their garbage bags at the curb as early as 9AM on Sunday, preceding scheduled pickup the following day and two days or more if the scheduled pickup happens to fall on a holiday. Placement of garbage bags at curbside before 6AM on collection day should not be permitted. Enforcement of present rules would prevent unnecessary exposure to rodents, etc.

* Use of plastic garbage bags is both a benefit to the residents as well as to the collectors. Bags are easily handled and can be readily tossed onto the truck by collectors. Conversely, use of cans requires additional moves and effort by collection personnel, thus adding to collection costs.

* I fully appreciate your efforts to head off a potential problem, but feel that to require covered cans at the curb would be both regressive and expensive to the town of Lancaster taxpayers.

Waste Management comments

Patrick Hourihan, representing Waste Management commented that Symer’s correspondence to the board was well received by their company. There are restrictions in place regarding size and weight of containers and content. If the town went to supplying residents with the large, heavy duty totes, his company would also have to retrofit their pickup trucks to accommodate the transfer.

Hourihan also commented on the potential of individuals placing other than “garbage” in plastic bags. “We have no way of determining what’s in the bags and cannot be held accountable for that”, declared Hourihan.

Enforcing what’s already there

Resident John Stanko opined that commercial businesses were the biggest violators of present town code requirements and the town should take action to see they are made to comply with said codes.

Supervisor Giza interjected with, “Like I said, if everybody would use common sense we wouldn’t need to consider what we are now discussing. When you see abuse on a regular basis, you should call the building inspector’s office ad he can check it out and cite them. We don’t want people to become squealers, but it’s impossible for us to police the entire community.”

Law language ambiguous

Resident Don Brown informed the Board that his driveway was 350 foot in length. He does put his garbage in lidded containers but was not clear on what constituted garbage. If he had to use lidded containers for everything, this would impose a burden on him.

Town Attorney Sherwood declared that the language would be redefined.

Storing and handling

Resident Richard Korcz informed the Board that rats came out at night to feed. “It is not so much the importance of the container as is how the garbage is handled,” commented Korcz. “I believe it would behoove the town to make sure residents are held accountable for the proper storing and handling of garbage. Residents should not put out their garbage any sooner than 6 AM on the day of pickup. Rats are nocturnal; they will not forage in the daylight.

Korcz went on to say that the onus of enforcement should not be on the waste management system or the building inspector’s office. “It should be the responsibility of the residents.”

Need for Ad Hoc Committee

Henry Gull supported Don Symer’s position regarding revising the proposed law and the formation of an Ad Hoc committee to address the “potential rodent invasion.” Gull offered to serve on such committee if asked.

Gull also opined that the law currently proposed is non-enforceable. He contended that even if garbage were placed at the curb as required, it would only be visible for two hours. “For the remainder of the week it is most often invisible,” said Gull.

Common sense and current law should be revised

Resident Lee Chowaniec agreed with Supervisor Giza’s statement that the storing of garbage and its placement at the curb should be a matter of common sense. Despite being an individual who always used lidded containers for garbage storage and pickup, I am able to see the merits of Don Symer’s recommendation.

Many sound reasons were given for the need to revise the law as it is currently proposed. If the town were to impose this law, requiring residents to purchase their lidded containers at lower cost to them and the town, it would burden working homeowners in that their containers and lids would very likely disappear on a windy day, or be stolen.

If the town were to eventually supply the larger, heavier totes, their size and weight would pose a hardship on when handling and storing such totes – especially for the elderly.

It would appear from all the comments made at the public hearing that there was common ground for language revision and compromise:

* Garbage placed in lidded containers and other refuse should be placed at the curb for pickup no sooner than 6 PM the day preceding collection.

* Garbage placed in plastic bags should be placed at the curb for pickup no sooner than 6 PM on the morning of pickup.

* Garbage stored on the property should be stored in lidded containers at all times.

* The town needs to address residents and businesses that place their garbage at the curb days in advance. Fines and penalties need to be imposed for all violations.

* Businesses should be better monitored to ensure that dumpster lids need to be closed and their properties are kept clean and free of litter – that oft times pollutes their neighbors property.

This is a common sense approach. If compliance is not had, the town should penalize the hell out of the offenders before accepting the cost of supplying totes and punishing those who do use common sense and comply.

Garbage Containment Law as proposed

The following is taken from the proposed ordinance:

The proposed local law, known as “Garbage Containers”, would be enacted to “ensure public health, safety and welfare by insuring that all garbage containers other than recyclables shall be properly secured on all premises and shall be placed at the curb for pickup with the lid secure so that there is no open container which may attract rodents and other vermin.”

Container is defined as a plastic, rubber, metal or composite receptacle for the holding of material.

Garbage here means all putrescible* and non-putrescible materials, including liquids and semi-solids, but not including yard waste such as lawn clippings, leaves, garden waste and brush.

* Liable to become putrid (spoil, rot)

Section 25-22 Requirements of Closed Containers

A. Each resident shall be responsible for causing all garbage to be placed in a plastic bag and then contained in a secure container, either plastic, rubber, metal or composite, which has a top or lid which fits tightly on the container to secure the contents.

B. Residents shall secure all garbage containers while on their private property, either within a structure or out of doors.

C. All garbage containers shall be secured with a top or lid for the container when such garbage is placed at the curb.

D. There shall be no garbage placed at the curb for pickup by the collector which is outside of a closed container.

E. That the collector under contract with the Town of Lancaster shall not make a collection at any residence which places garbage at the curb for pick up which is in other than a closed container as described herein.

F. It shall be a violation of this ordinance:
(1) To place bags or open containers of any kind or nature filled with garbage at the curb for pickup, and

(2) To place any open container of any kind containing garbage at the curb for pick up.

G. That a violation of this ordinance shall be punishable by a fine of $50 for the first violation, $75 for the second violation and $100 for the third violation.

Section 25-23 - When effective
This local law shall take effect after mailing, filing and publication as required by law.

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