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Main Street member seeking remedy to downtown garbage can problem; issue hampers organization's efforts, he says

Stephen Deleski, a Main Street member, has asked for the council's assistance to prevent downtown renters from using city garbage cans, like this one opposite the Willmar Public Library, for their personal trash. Deleski says disposal of private household garbage in Main Street's trash cans violates the intent of the organization's attempt to keep the downtown clean. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- During the past four years, Main Street Willmar has placed nine big brown garbage cans around the central business district. The group, representing downtown interests, pays to have the cans emptied and the trash removed.

Main Street intends the cans, sitting on along sidewalks and boulevards, be used by the public to dispose of trash such as wrappers and beverage containers.

But some downtown apartment renters are apparently also using the cans: disposing of their private household garbage in the cans rather than use cans or receptacles provided by their landlords.

Stephen Deleski, a Main Street member and owner of West Central Printing located downtown, says he has not personally seen someone put their private garbage in the receptacles, but he has retrieved the garbage of a downtown renter.

He believes the disposal of private household garbage in Main Street's trash cans violates the intent of the organization's attempt to keep the downtown clean.

"I don't think anything out in the public like that is intended for somebody's private use,'' Deleski says.

Deleski brought his concern last month to the City Council's Community Development Committee and the committee recommended the council refer the matter to City Attorney Rich Ronning to review existing ordinances and recommend changes to address the problem.

The council discussed the issue this week, but voted 4-4 on the recommendation, leading Mayor Les Heitke to declare the motion died for lack of a majority.

Voting in favor of the recommendation were Steve Ahmann, Tim Johnson, JimDokken and Bruce DeBlieck. Voting against were Ron Christianson, Denis Anderson, Rick Fagerlie and Doug Reese.

Christianson said he did not know how the city would police the problem.

City Administrator Michael Schmit said he was not sure how Ronning would write an ordinance to keep people from hauling their household garbage down to the containers or how the city would enforce it short of having someone watch the containers all the time.

"When the downtown business community put the containers in, we suggested that they have small openings in the top so the traveling public, pedestrians, if they want to dispose of something could easily do so, but it would preclude someone from bringing down a bag of garbage and stuffing it in there,'' he said.

"They chose not to follow that advice and their containers have larger openings. Therein lies the problem.''

Schmit said if he had attended the committee meeting he would have suggested Main Street change the type of container rather than ask the council to go through the process of revising an ordinance, "which I don't know how we would enforce.''

Ronning said he would welcome suggestions on how to enforce it.

Deleski said Main Street has brochures and members talk to renters, but is looking for assistance on a remedy. He said he'll ask to be placed on the Community Development Committee's next meeting agenda.

Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services, says it's difficult to prevent the disposal of garbage in a can if the can is on public property. If someone wrongfully disposes of their private trash in someone else's private receptacle, then it's theft of service.

"But if it's put in a public can, the expectation is that there will be garbage put in the garbage can, so where do you draw that line?'' he asked.

In other business, the council approved the sale of the Willmar Fire Department's 1982 Ford fire truck to the city of Dwight, N.D., for $65,000.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150