At a Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, the Common Council discussed an idea advocated by Mayor Ann Thane and Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis to authorize the police and sanitation departments to cite property owners for garbage related codes violations.
DeCusatis explained the problem with the current process for handling violations. “Right now what happens is …say somebody throws a sofa out. The garbageman looks at it and can’t pick it up and puts a tag on it. Then the code enforcement officer gets called. The code enforcement officer writes out a letter and sends a sticker for the front of the house…a certain amount of time has to go by…the person gets an opportunity to remove it. If they don’t remove it then a work order gets generated [for] the sanitation department. Then the sanitation department schedules a pickup. Then a week to two weeks go by before the sofa gets off the street.”
DeCusatis advocated for streamlining the process. “What’s intended here is the sanitation foreman can say ‘there’s a sofa on the street.’ Let’s pick it up and we’ll charge this residence for that sofa. Bang – cut out all the middlemen – just collect the sofa.”
Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler said one problem with the idea was, “you have people all over the city that dump items on somebody else’s property. So you pick [the garbage] up from somebody’s property but it’s not their [garbage].”
She said that with the current system, property owners had time to react to receipt of a violation notice.
DeCusatis explained that there could be a provision such that a property owner could file a police report in the event of an illegal dumping in order to avoid paying the fee.
“But you’re putting the onus on the homeowner and it’s not their responsibility,” said Hatzenbuhler.
DeCusatis said that under the current system, the homeowner would have to take the time to respond to a code violation letter and would eventually have to pay to remove the garbage anyway. Under the proposed system, the homeowner could avoid the removal fee by filing a police report.
Council members also discussed other issues related to drafting new garbage collection rules including the appropriateness of other city departments handling codes violations, whether trash cans with lids should be required for all garbage or just garbage containing food items that would attract animals, as well as the minimum time period a homeowner should have to take care of violations on their property.
The Common Council later approved an ordinance that was introduced two weeks ago to ban basketball hoops on or near city streets. The measure passed 4-1 with Alderwoman Beekman casting the no vote.