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.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.