Scroll down to view article
Scroll down to view article
Scroll down to view article
Scroll down to view article
Scroll down to view article
Scroll down to view article

New ordinance will streamline bulk garbage removal

Changes to the city’s solid waste law, adopted at last Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, will now allow police officers or the sanitation foreman to act as code enforcement officials and order the removal of bulk garbage from a property. The law, which was first introduced back in July 2014, allows for the city to immediately pick up bulk garbage on a property as soon as it is cited and bill the tenants or property owners.

According to Mayor Ann Thane, the changes will speed up the removal of bulk garbage and free up time for the regular code enforcement officials.

Thane explained that even though leaving bulk garbage out for any length of time is a violation, the process to remove it is a lengthy one.  “What happens now is people put [bulk garbage] out anyway. Then it sits there for three weeks until someone complains. Then code enforcement is sent out there. They go, they look, they write a notice of violation, they send it. It’s not responded to. Then they go out again. They have to notify DPW [to pick it up]. The thing ends up sitting out there for six weeks. “

The new version of the law reads, “By placing a bulk or specialty item curbside, the property owner consents to the collection of the item by the City of Amsterdam and agrees to the associated charge of collection.”

Thane said, “This way, with this change, we pick it up right away and we bill. And that’s much more expedient.”

Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis added, “Code enforcement’s time then is not wasted on this, which is not high priority.”

Alderman Richard Leggiero expressed concern that a resident could get charged for garbage dumped illegally on his or her property by someone else without their consent.

“If you file a police report…you just submit the police report and you don’t have to pay,” said DeCusatis.

The new law also requires that trash containers be stored “behind the front line of the building by 9:00 p.m. on the day of collection.” However council members were not sure whether the “font line” was considered the front of the home’s foundation, or whether that could be the front of the porch.

Also in the new law, are requirements for residents to make sure that their regular weekly garbage is put on the curb in containers that prevent animals from breaking into them and making a mess. The law reads, “At all times all waste must be stored so as to not attract nuisance wildlife. At all times all waste must be stored in containers so as not to become scattered by wind or wildlife.”

Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler argued that the law should specifically state that all garbage should be stored in garbage cans, rather than plastic bags in order to prevent messes.

“My concern is if you don’t specify a trash can for garbage, we are going to have people who ignore it and it’s going to become an issue. I don’t understand why we can’t move into the next century and require trash cans like most communities do around the country,” said Hatzenbuhler.

“If you put anything in a bag that’s going to attract vermin, it’s going to be cited,” said Thane.

Other council members expressed concern about the cost to notify all city residents by mail about the requirement. Thane expressed concern for the burden on low income city residents to purchase garbage cans. Council members discussed the possibility of requiring land lords to provide garbage cans for their tenants, but nothing was decided on.

Alderman Ron Barone suggested the council pass the law as it was originally introduced and revisit the issue of whether to require garbage cans at a later date. The law was passed unanimously.

About Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of AnthemWebsites.com LLC which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

21 Responses to New ordinance will streamline bulk garbage removal

  1. Luis says:

    The intent of the code is good and really not too much different than what the current NYS Property Maintenance Code already requires, regarding the storage of waste. It already requires using tight-fitting lids on containers, for garbage and rubbish on the exterior.

    Many other progressive thinking municipalities also have these storage requirements, containers behind the front yards, with discretion left to trained code enforcement officials for certain unusual circumstances that do occur for “out of sight”.

    Where I see fault in this code, is in the purpose and the lack of understanding of what it takes to have a fair process for the residents. This new enforcement tactic where you are asking non-trained code enforcement personnel, to suddenly be granted the power to cite residents and fine them without having to follow proper due process especially when residents will receive a monetary fine will be problematic. The person citing should not be fining a person aswell, add to that no training or experience will lead to legal problems. Having a sanitation foreman granted this ability and it’s not a part of their job requirements brings up a contractual issue. Besides they are not trained nor were they required to be experienced in code enforcement when hired. There are also additional cost associated to doing things this way. I hear no talk of training or additional cost impacts to date.

    It’s also stated here, “Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis added, “Code enforcement’s time then is not wasted on this, which is not high priority.” I find it hard to believe the Police personnel should be used then since it’s not going to be a priority to them as they have more pressings issues.

    The lack of a true purpose and proper action by the City here will require this to be addressed again in the future.

    • Tim Becker says:

      Digging into the law a little more, it states :

      “ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL — For the purpose of enforcement of Ch. 201 of the Code of the City of Amsterdam, any employee of the City authorized to enforce this chapter, including all housing inspectors, building inspectors, code enforcement officers, any police officer, and the sanitation foreman.”

      So it doesn’t necessarily make all police officers full-fledged code enforcement officers, only for the purposes of the laws in that one chapter. And I think you are right, it would not be reasonable to expect a police officer to have the same level of training as a codes enforcement officer when it comes to inspecting buildings and more technical matters like that.

  2. In regards to garbage cans. I have left my garbage can with wheels in front of my house and was cited. Was informed that the sanitation collectors are not allowed to reach into the garbage can. So what are we supposed to do. I took my (1) bag out put by the curb and I was left with a mess that the sanitation men left. I am confused on this issue. Thank you.

    • Tim Becker says:

      I’m not sure Kathy – are you putting the garbage into bags first, and then putting the bags into the bin? I have a neighbor who does that and doesn’t seem to have a problem. The collectors take the bags out of the bin. But if the garbage isn’t in bags, and the bin is too large to lift, maybe that could be the issue? I’m just speculating.

    • Luis says:

      Hi Kathy,

      Now I can’t speak to this matter. I will describe to you proper protocol before you receive a fine or service charge possibly. You should of received, personally or by usps mail a violation notice describing a detailed violation and a specific time frame to correct the matter, followed by calling for an inspection to verify correction.

      If none of this has been done then they have not followed code citation procedures and have no basis to charge you for any services. They are required to give you proper notice, prior to taken any action as the city code states chapter 201 section 27. Extreme cases chapter 201 section 28 may apply.

  3. Luis says:

    Tim,

    It’s not the Police that lack training in enforcement, not sure where you get that. Police address primarily criminal charges not these matters which are considered civil charges although the Police already can cite any city code (like this garbage ordinance) without this additional language.

    As I noted it’s the Sanitation foremen, who’s not qualified to suddenly begin enforcing this code. Like I noted there are strict protocols that must be followed first given a resident an opportunity to correct the matter, not just pick it up and bill the person a municipal fine as some describe within your article.

    • Tim Becker says:

      Well, the law now reads “By placing a bulk or specialty item curbside, the property owner consents to the collection of the item by the City of Amsterdam and agrees to the associated charge of collection.” So that would seem to cut through any of the procedures that were in place before. Do you think that will be problematic? What types of situations do you think might occur?

      • Luis says:

        So if I am charged for garbage fees/taxes, for its removal and you now say to me well if you place it at the curb now, we shall charge you what we see fit for not following the rules? Where is my notice that for example Kathy is asking for in her concern.

        So charges that are not warrented and assesses to your property wrongly are my biggest concern.

      • Luis says:

        Think of it from the view of a property owner of a two-family or more units premises. Tenant leaves at night before the end of the month and dumps there bulk items at the curb.

        Without proper notice to the property owner, they will be assessed a fine/service charge from the city and levied against their taxes for removing the waste. This could lead to someone losing a house over a couch left at the curb or something. As someone who follows upon on these very complaints, I can tell you these are not simple violations to rectify as your lead to believe.

      • Tim Becker says:

        Well, if a tenant leaves their junk at their apartment and then skips town, the landlord is going to have to pay to clean it up one way or another, with or without this law. Obviously it’s not fair, but someone has to pay for it. This just speeds it up. I can’t see how someone would lose their house over it.

    • Luis says:

      Tim,

      You state “Well, if a tenant leaves their junk at their apartment and then skips town, the landlord is going to have to pay to clean it up one way or another, with or without this law. Obviously it’s not fair, but someone has to pay for it. This just speeds it up. I can’t see how someone would lose their house over it.”

      First familiarize yourself with the code we are talking about. Read it, here let me cut and paste it for you:

      Chapter 201-28, Penalties for Offenses, to the Amsterdam Solid Waste Ordinance.
      “the City of amsterdam, its agents or employees shall be empowered to enter upon the subject premises or any exterior portion thereof and to remove the items that constitute such violation using the most practicable method available and a mobilization charge of $250 and the actual costs of such removal and other additional costs in connection therewith, shall be certified by the appropriate City agent to the City Controller and shall thereupon become and be a lien upon the property on which such removal occurred and shall be added to and become and form part of the taxes next to be assessed and levied upon such lot or land and shall bear interest at the same rate as taxes and shall be collected and enforced by the same officer and in the same manner as taxes.

      You get charged a adminastration fee of $250.00 on top of the cost of disposing the waste. No Tim, the cost associated with removing the waste by yourself as opposed to having the city do it is no where near the same. If you leave a couch at the curb, don’t remove it, 201-28 then this is the code section that they will use to cite you and calculate the cost to remove the waste and then bill you for it. You need to accept the fact the bill will become a lien on your premises and if not paid will lead to foreclosure for non-payment of taxes.

      • Luis says:

        Quoted the wrong section of the code on the initial fee. It’s a $100.00 mobilization charge on top of the cost of disposal/tipping fees, of the waste.

        The $250.00 charge is meant for serious violations needing immediate resolution like a health hazard of some sort.

      • Tim Becker says:

        Good to know. I don’t claim to be an expert on codes, so that’s why I’m glad to have a discussion like this.

        Let me ask this – first, if a tenant does dump their stuff and leaves, isn’t that illegal? In that case, according to DeCusatis, the landlord can submit a police report and have the fee waived.

        Or, the landlord could just call and schedule a bulk pickup from the city right away. I think they do that once a week. So as long as DPW keeps their records straight, I would think that would avoid an extra fee. Again, I’m just speculating on how it could play out, there could be other factors I’m unaware of.

        I understand that unpaid fees get added to the tax bill. Even in that worse case scenario though, I wonder how likely it would be for an extra $100 to be the reason someone to falls behind on their tax payments to the extent they lose the house?

      • Luis says:

        Tim,

        Ok so I’ll play devils advocate. The tenant is gone, who would you hold at fault for dumping waste at the curb, if they left? Not sure where you are going with that analogy because these tenants don’t leave a forwarding address. Also the Corpoation Counsel does not speak on behalf of the Amsterdam Police Dept. They speak for themselves, so the Corp. Counsel is not devolging any internal police policy of practise of any sort, only an assumption that they will show up and find fault in the ex-tenant. Fact is, you will be waiting a long time for Police Officer to show up and determine a tenant left behind the waste. Who’s to say the landlord didn’t dump the waste at the curb and blame the tenant who left, so it is picked up for free by the city under DeCusatis’ analogy. This would be at the cost to all other city residents. Yes Tim, this happens more often then you know.

        Yes the landlord could have the bulk waste picked up by pre-purchased ticket, to ward off higher penal charges by the city. Only if they knew in advance of tenant’s leaving at night and before the end of the month. They don’t give prior notice from my experience.

        As for why people may loose a house over an unpaid bill added to their taxes, I would have to explain escrow and compound interest to you. I believe you understand what they mean. These bills can quickly escalate and they are seen as unpaid taxes only, not what they were initially charged for. It’s best to avoid having the city pay you back for an over charge, why? The city is good at collecting money not giving it back!

      • Tim Becker says:

        I think you bring up some valid concerns Luis. Perhaps the council should look at revising it in a few months as Barone suggested.

  4. Luis says:

    Mayor,

    On your concern “Thane expressed concern for the burden on low income city residents to purchase garbage cans.” Note, under the NYS property maintenance code which your municipality is suppose to enforce, it states it’s the responsibility of the property owner to provide containers w/tigh-fitting lids for residents. As the Chief Codes Supervisor you should know this rather than complicate matters with incorrect information.

    • Tim Becker says:

      Can you cite that section of the law Luis? I’d like to look it up. My quick google searches did not come up with anything.

      • Luis says:

        Goggle? check the nys state Web site. I’ll give you the direct link to the state code.

        Here is the link to the DECA, http://www.dos.ny.gov/DCEA/laws_regs.html free on-line version to the entire ny state building code.

        After clicking on, 2010 Codes of New York State, your looking for, 2010 nys property maintenance code, then chp. 3, then scroll down and you will see section 307.2.1 & 307.3.1 on owner responsibility to provide tenants with containers.

      • Tim Becker says:

        Thanks for the link, I just got to it. Here is the relevant section…

        307.3.1 Garbage facilities. The owner of every dwelling shall supply one of the following: an approved mechanical food waste grinder in each dwelling unit; an approved incinerator unit in the structure available to the occupants in each dwelling unit; or an approved leakproof, covered, outside garbage container.

        307.3.2 Containers. The operator of every establishment producing garbage shall provide, and at all times cause to be utilized, approved leakproof containers provided with close-fitting covers for the storage of such materials until removed from the premises for disposal.

        So maybe the city code should be updated? Thing is I took a call while on WCSS today from a lady who said she was a landlord and provided garbage cans to her tenants and said they kept losing them and she wasn’t going to buy them any more. So that’s what you run up against.

      • Luis says:

        Tim,

        Yes, that is correct. More disconcerting for me is how the city will now charge residents for waste left at the curb.

      • Luis says:

        Tim,

        Seeing that we stated specific one-sided code sections. I wanted to add in order to not give the wrong impression because code enforcement is always and should be first education before enforcement.

        There are other sections of the code, where code enforcement officials can cite to hold tenants responsible for storage, disposing of waste and of course general cleanliness.