Pittsfield Health Officials Back Trash Collection Changes
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Health Director Gina Armstrong doesn't see the enforcement of new trash regulations becoming a difficult task.
The Board of Health is currently in charge of enforcing nuisance issues regarding trash and will continue to do so if the city moves to an automated system. An ordinance to move to the toter system, with residents being given city-issued 45-gallon and 96-gallon trash and recycling bins, is currently before the City Council.
Armstrong brought up some areas of concern about the proposed toter system regulations, but overall said it will keep the city cleaner.
"It is going to save a lot of time and we can address more problemed properties," Armstrong said.
The nitty-gritty details of what constitutes a violation — as in where on the curbside a barrel must be or what type of leniency is provided if the barrel's lid doesn't shut all the way — still needs to be sorted. That would come at a later date and be crafted by the Health Department and the Department of Public Services.
Armstrong, however, said right now inspectors are in charge of responding to individual complaints when they are made. In this case, the driver for the trash hauler will be able to spot potential violations and report them to the department.
"The drivers of the truck will observe the violation, take photos of it, record it to a report, and sent it to the department," Armstrong said.
The department can then collect that data and identify where there are reoccurring troubles. Further, she said the driver will place stickers on the bins making the resident aware if they had violated the rules.
Overall, the Board of Health sees the toter program as one that will combat blight just by being implemented. The city's current trash pickup has no restrictions on the amount of trash and a requirement that trash is placed in a bin has been largely ignored. That has led to residents leaving bags of trash by the curbside, where animals can get into and spread the trash all over the streets.
But there is one specific issue Armstrong still has concerns with: bulky waste. The program, as laid out by the city's administration, eliminates the curbside collection of bulky waste. Residents can now put things such as couches or chairs on the curbside, purchase a sticker, and the hauler will pick it up.
Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood said with the elimination of that option, residents will likely have to turn to private haulers, donate it, or transport it themselves.
"The private haulers is the easier way to do that. There are already people in the market doing this," Kerwood said.
Armstrong, however, said the majority of the calls the department has to respond to are relating to bulky waste. She suggested an amendment that would have a separate truck do a route once a week in the city to collect it. In that scenario, the resident would have to call the department to inform them where to stop and it would be added to the list for the hauler's weekly bulky waste pick up.
Kerwood said the biggest piece of bulky waste is working with landlords. He said the city will have to have a heightened focus on working with them to make sure apartments are cleaned out when the tenant leaves and the bulky items aren't just left for pick up.
When it comes to multi-family dwellings eligible for curbside pickup, Kerwood addressed some issues that have been raised since the toter proposal was made to the city council. Kerwood said each tote would be chipped with a tag linking it to the specific address and each specific unit. The totes are issued to the property owners and are expected to stay with the property. Overflow bags, however, will be the responsibility of the tenants.
But at the end of the day, Kerwood said it is the landlords who are responsible for making sure the trash is gone.
"Ultimately owners are responsible for the removal of trash. That is a state sanitary code," Kerwood said.
An amendment Armstrong suggest would be to add a time in which the totes can be placed on the sidewalk. She feels the trash shouldn't be placed on the curbside until dusk before the night of collection. The ordinance does not currently include that type of provision.
Kerwood said the current ordinance doesn't address a time either. While places like Chicopee say trash can't be there before 7 a.m., Kerwood said the administration didn't want to add something like that to a city where the current practice tends to be the night before.
"We didn't want to go so far to change what is a common practice in the community in putting it out the night before," Kerwood said.
The Board of Health, however, has many issues with trash being placed too early, allowing for more chances for animals to get at it. And, the department faces complaints about trash barrels being left on the curbside too long after pick up.
Board of Health member Alan Kulberg suggested the administration come up with a compromise. He said with the totes being more secure, then no requirement about the time should be needed. But with the overflow bags, maybe those should be restricted.
The plan — detailed here — is still sitting before the City Council. The council has yet to cast a vote on it. Council President Peter Marchetti said he doesn't expect that vote to happen until early January at the earliest.
In the meantime, Kerwood said he knows the Board of Health, City Councilors, and others will be seeking amendments. He wants the proposed amendments to be submitted in writing, which can then be compiled in a full list for the City Council to consider when it finally takes the item up.
"We are going to try a systematic approach to amendments," Kerwood said.
The Board of Health reviewed the ordinance Wednesday, finding mostly typographical and language concerns.
"I think the financial aspect of it as well as the blight control is vital to it. As a board of health, I think this is right for the community," Chairman Jay Green said.
Tags: BOH, trash,
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