2017-09-29 / Front Page

Sticking point: Decals on carts

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

The town council may adopt an ordinance that would prohibit residents from decorating their curbside recycling and solid waste carts. The ordinance change passed at first reading last week and will be the subject of a public hearing Wednesday, Oct. 4. (Michael Kelley photo) The town council may adopt an ordinance that would prohibit residents from decorating their curbside recycling and solid waste carts. The ordinance change passed at first reading last week and will be the subject of a public hearing Wednesday, Oct. 4. (Michael Kelley photo) For years, the town has attempted to control what residents put in their curbside solid waste and recycling carts, stressing the recycling cart is for recyclable material and the solid waste cart for those items that can’t be recycled or composted.

Now the town may control what residents put on their containers.

The council last week held the first reading of an ordinance change to the Town of Scarborough Garbage and Recycling and Disposal Ordinance that would prohibit residents from putting stickers or paint on them to decorate, or differentiate them from other carts on the road.

The draft ordinance reads: “Residents may choose to mark their cart with the street address that the cart was assigned to for identification purposes. Under no circumstances should the carts be defaced by the use of markers, stickers or paint. A cart that has been defaced will be replaced at cost to the resident to whom the cart was assigned.”

Public Works Director Mike Shaw said in his most recent round of cart ordering, he purchased the 64-gallon carts (the standard size issued) for $45.88 each and the 96-gallon, issued by re- quest, for $52.60 each.

The matter will be the topic of a public hearing Wednesday, Oct. 4.

Marking the carts has been a longstanding practice for some residents – town councilors included – to assist with identifying their carts after the solid waste and recycling have been collected.

Bay Street resident Susan Hamill said placing a sticker on a cart doesn’t harm the carts in any way and was angered the council was even taken the topic up.

Hamill lives on a street where many carts are crowded together and a decal or sticker makes it “pretty easy and quick to identify which cart is yours.” A small mark of the address isn’t noticeable.

It will be an enforcement nightmare, she said, to have this on the books. Hamill wondered if the bins with stickers on them will be replace even if they work fine and who will be the one enforcing the ordinance: Pine Tree Waste, the town’s contracted hauler? The Department of Public Works?

“Already there are hundreds of bins out there that have stickers. I don’t know how you are going to deal with that,” she told councilors.

The impetus for the ordinance update came from a resident who complained their neighbor was using the cart to display political bumper stickers.

“They were promoting their candidate out on the curbside,” councilor and ordinance committee chairman Bill Donovan said at the Aug. 3 ordinance committee meeting before the group, which also includes Councilors Will Rowan and Kate St. Clair, unanimously voted to pass the topic on to the full council.

The concern, he said at the time, was if “one person starts to do it, then someone else will do it as a counter and then all of a sudden now every(body is).”

The carts belong to the town and are given to property owners to use for solid waste and recycling collection.

Councilor Chris Caiazzo said the fact the carts are public property “supersedes anybody’s individual right to put on what they feel like because it is in front of their home.”

“It is public property. We don’t put bumper stickers on our police cruisers, fire trucks or school buses,” Caiazzo said.

The existing ordinance makes clear the carts are town property, but lacks any provision that bars deco- rating or defacing them. It does mention damaged or lost carts, will be replaced by the town for a fee, but doesn’t specify that figure.

“The solid waste ordinance doesn’t go into depth – it talks about ownership – but doesn’t talk specifically about any sort of decoration or specification of carts,” Shaw said.

Hall said at the Aug. 3 ordinance committee meeting that since the town does not collect solid waste and recycling on private ways, on their neighborhood collection day, those residents put all of their carts together along the nearest public way for collection and have taken to spray painting their address number on them.

“We see that as not offensive and a legitimate marking,” he said at the time.

Whether to amend the ordinance split the council at first reading Sept. 21 with councilors Peter Hayes, Katy Foley and St. Clair voting against it.

“I struggle with trying to rationalize in my head that we have a big issue or problem we are trying to solve,” Foley said. “I just feel we are trying to solve an issue that isn’t there.”

Hayes said during his three years on the council, he has never heard a complaint about defaced solid waste or recycling carts and in fact has a Saddleback Maine bumper sticker on his carts to set them apart.

Shaw said he has had “one or two calls” he can recall about stickers on curbside carts. Most of the questions he receives, he said, are about ownership and what happens to the carts when a homeowner moves away.

“We don’t get a lot of calls about that,” Shaw said of decorated carts. “It’s hasn’t risen to be on our front burner.”

Caiazzo didn’t support the proposed ordinance change, but could support language that said when people no longer need the carts, or move away, they be required to make sure the carts are cleaned for the next owner of their house. Caiazzo said rather than charging residents to replace the barrel, perhaps the town should offer to sell the cart to them that way they can decorate it as they so desire.

He and St. Clair took exception to punishing those who have already put stickers on their carts, or have inherited carts with stickers by charging them for new ones.

“If someone is going to go around a look at all the trash cans and a set retroactive penalties – I think that would be a (public relations) nightmare,” Hayes said.

Caiazzo and council chairman Shawn Babine were adamant about passing the ordinance amendment as a way to protect town property.

“It’s public property, we have a right to have some expectations around that,” Babine said.

“The carts are owned by the town. They go with the property and defacing the carts can be a problem for the next owner,” Donovan said.

Donovan said the ordinance committee will visit the topic at its Sept. 28 meeting in advance of the Oct. 4 public hearing.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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