Council to look anew at city garbage pickups, new ordinance
By David Delcore
Staff Writer | October 02,2012
BARRE — Does garbage generated by someone who rents an apartment necessarily smell any worse on a hot summer day than garbage generated by someone who owns their own home?
That is among the many questions begged by a proposed ordinance revision that was the subject of a summerlong discussion by the City Council, which scrapped two earlier versions of the measure and will start from scratch tonight.
What began in June as an honest attempt to address an isolated complaint about Dumpsters in one Barre neighborhood is now on the verge of morphing into a proposal that would deprive landlords — and by extension their tenants — of an economical curbside option that would still be available to homeowners.
Councilors seemed unconcerned about that apparent double standard last week when discussing an evolving proposal that would, among other things, require weekly pickup of trash generated by the city’s apartment-dwelling residents, while exempting homeowners from that same requirement.
It isn’t just about large metal trash containers anymore. “Toters,” those now-familiar wheeled plastic garbage receptacles that commercial haulers provide to their customers, would also be affected by the changes being considered.
In fact, Councilor Paul Poirier said that if “toters” — at least those that serve rental properties — aren’t part of the mix he won’t support any of the suggested changes.
Citing a recent neighborhood complaint that involved the odor emanating from “toters” outside a Wellington Street apartment house, Poirier said an ordinance covering only Dumpster-type bins would fail to deal with that problem.
City Manager Steve Mackenzie said some of the more serious trash-related complaints involve properties served by “toters,” and Capt. Matt Cetin, the firefighter who is heading the city’s rental housing inspection program, predicted the number of them will multiply if some of the other changes are approved.
Councilors appeared ready to embrace proposed setback requirements for Dumpster-type containers that were suggested as a compromise to an earlier proposal that would have required all such bins to be screened.
The proposed setbacks — 20 feet from the edge of the street and four feet from a property line — would have been difficult if not impossible for some landlords to meet, forcing them to either obtain a waiver from Mackenzie or shift from Dumpster-type bins to “toters” for their tenants.
However, councilors were more concerned with the frequency of the trash receptacle being emptied, regardless of its size, and indicated a strong preference for weekly pickup — at least when it comes to rental properties.
Though less expensive, every-other-week trash removal service should not be an option for those who own rental properties, according to councilors, who acknowledged that would likely result in an increase in monthly trash bills that would be passed on to tenants in the form of increased rents.
Councilors never seriously discussed imposing the weekly pickup requirement on a citywide basis, though Councilor Anita Chadderton did suggest that after three trash-related complaints homeowners could be forced to go to weekly pickup. A three-strike rule for landlords was never discussed.
Councilor Michael Boutin, who has written two other versions of the ordinance change that was initially designed to address complaints about unsightly and occasionally overflowing Dumpsters, agreed to incorporate the changes discussed last week into a version of the ordinance change that will be considered by the council when it meets tonight at 7 p.m.