Downtown garbage can problem discussed after local organization seeking legal remedy for the issue
WILLMAR -- A City Council committee is suggesting a downtown group modify its garbage cans to discourage renters from placing their household garbage in the cans instead of receptacles provided by landlords.
The suggestion was offered by members of the Committee Development Committee as a way to prevent renters from using the nine large garbage cans placed three to four years ago in the central business district by Main Street Willmar, a group representing downtown interests.
Main Street spent $4,000 on the containers for the public to dispose of wrappers, beverage containers and similar trash. However, some downtown renters are using the cans to disposal of household garbage, according to Stephen Deleski, a Main Street member and downtown businessman.
Deleski first brought the issue to the council's Community Development Committee in June, seeking a legal remedy to the inappropriate use. The committee recommended the council refer the matter to City Attorney Rich Ronning to review existing ordinances and recommend changes to address the problem.
But the recommendation died on a 4-4 vote at the council's July 6 meeting.
Deleski discussed the problem during the open forum portion of the July 20 council meeting and the issue was referred to the Community Development Committee.
Deleski told the committee Thursday afternoon that the simplest way of solving the problem seemed to be adding language to city ordinances that would make it illegal to put household refuse in a public trash bin, a trash container owned by someone else, or in a bin or dumpster not owned by or under contract to the individual or landlord.
The language was quoted from a pamphlet of community expectations for newcomers published this past April by the Police Department and the Planning and Development Services Office.
In an interview Friday morning, Marilee Dorn, crime prevention officer, said the term "public'' refers to a container provided by a governmental entity, such as a city providing a garbage can in a park. She said the Main Street cans are technically not public bins, but are "public-access bins.''
City ordinance requires landlords to provide garbage containers and ordinances describe unauthorized use of someone else's garbage can as theft of services.
In a memo to Police Chief Jim Kulset, Dorn wrote that the pamphlet tried to articulate what is reasonably expected by most community members, since the issue has repeatedly come up.
"No matter what, we as police officers recognize that the outcome of a test case charging someone with theft of services for putting household trash in a downtown, public-access bin would be doubtful,'' Dorn wrote.
"It would be nice to be able to explain to someone why other people are upset about what they're doing, and how to correct it.''
Committee member Steve Ahmann said it was matter of education. He said most people understand why the cans are there. Deleski asked who is responsible for educating newcomers.
Ahmann and committee member Jim Dokken suggested Main Street reduce the size of the opening of the bins with Plexiglas to allow only a beverage container. Deleski wondered if the modification would prohibit the top of the container from closing after being emptied by the truck, but said he would see what Main Street wanted to do.
Chairman Bruce DeBlieck said the committee would take Deleski's issue under advisement
In other business, the committee received a report from Wes Hompe, staff electrical engineer with the Willmar Municipal Utilities, on the utility's $10 million wind turbine project.
Also, Hompe reported the Municipal Utilities Commission has entered into an agreement to buy 30 megawatts of energy from the proposed Big Stone II power plant in eastern South Dakota.
The committee will present its report during the regular City Council meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday in the chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building, 700 Litchfield Ave. S.W.
Also on the agenda will be reports from the Finance Committee and the Public Works/Safety Committee, recognition of 2009 Willmar Fests royalty, consideration of a temporary on-sale liquor license for the Design Center, consideration of a joint powers agreement with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and comments from the public during the open forum.