Council considers time limit on garbage cans

By Michael Seffrin -

SIDNEY — Some residents are leaving their garbage cans at the curb for several days or even permanently, so Sidney City Council Monday night considered setting a time limit.

Council discussed the problem last spring as it prepared to switch the city to an automated trash-pickup system. Residents were provided with special wheeled garbage containers. The automated system began in October, and since then, several council members have observed or have been contacted by residents about the containers remaining curbside or in front yards on an ongoing basis.

The current code fails to address where the containers must be stored, when they should be set out on the curb, and when they are to be removed from the curb after collection. Republic Services, the city’s trash hauler, suggested in literature given to residents that containers be removed within 24 hours.

Following discussion Monday night, council directed the city staff to study how other cities deal with the problem. The staff is expected to report on that in March.

Councilman Ed Hamaker said he has received “a lot of good comments (from residents) about the new containers,” but some people are leaving them out too long. On the properties where this occurs, “a lot of them are rentals,” he said.

Hamaker suggested a 48-hour time limit, but he wondered how the city would enforce this and if the city has adequate staff to do so. In researching what other towns do, Hamaker said he found some impose hefty fines if residents fail to heed warning letters.

“Before we had the new containers, we had the same issues,” Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan observed. The new containers solved the problem of trash bags being left out for animals to tear apart, she said. She suggested waiting longer to see if the current problem lessens.

Councilman Joe Ratermann pointed out it was a problem before the city switched to an automated system and it continues to be a problem. He proposed that the staff survey other cities to see how they handle it. He also was concerned that a 48-hour limit would mean containers could be left out as long as two days before and two days after pickup. However, Mayor Mike Barhorst said the 48 hours would be “start to finish,” so cans could be left out only a total of two days.

Councilwoman Janet Born said she has seen another problem: Residents who chose the smaller containers and have trash sticking out of the cans week after week.

City Manager Mark Cundiff said the big issue if the city imposes a time limit is “who exactly would be enforcing it?” He also said some residents may not have storage space in garages for the containers and the topography in some areas of town may affect where containers are placed. The staff study should also determine the extent of the problem by counting how many containers are being left out for long periods, he said.

Councilman Steve Wagner, who was among three councilmen who voted against the switch to the automated system (the other two members no longer are on council), said the new program is not yet six months old, “and we’re talking about changes.” He said the program hasn’t been through a summer, which is a time when residents are outdoors more often and talk to one another. “Let’s give it a rest for now,” he said.

Ratermann said the staff study could be delayed until July or August. But Barhorst felt the staff should at least find out how other cities deal with it.

Councilman Darryl Thurber said containers being left out definitely is a problem, estimating that six citizens have contacted him about it. Thurber, who was not on council when the automated system was approved, asked why the time-limit issue wasn’t addressed then. Barhorst said council was aware of the problem then, but wanted to wait before making further changes to the trash-collection operation.

By Michael Seffrin

The writer may be contacted at 937-538-4823.

The writer may be contacted at 937-538-4823.