There are too many garbage- and blight-related ordinances in the local government kitchen, according to the board of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority, which initially voted to repeal all of the solid waste agency’s ordinances on Tuesday before restoring some of them.
The ordinances primarily targeted for repeal require local landlords to provide their tenants with trash and recycling collection service.
Any repeal would have to be approved by the Crescent City Council and Del Norte County Board of Supervisors before becoming official.
During the meeting, Tedd Ward, authority program manager and acting director, explained why the disputed ordinance was created in 2008 that made landlords responsible for trash generated on their property — whether by subscribing to trash collection service or hauling their tenants’ garbage on their own.
Ward said that the authority would receive frequent phone calls from landlords or real estate agents asking for discounted rates of disposal for loads of trash left behind by tenants. Nobody wanted to foot the bill for accumulated trash.
“We could have people who are renting and neither the landlord nor the renter would take responsibility for the materials because the landlord would say ‘it’s the renter’s responsibility’ and the renter would say, ‘I ran out of money’ or whatever the excuse was,” Ward said.
The primary ordinance (2008-01) clarified that property owners are responsible for trash generated on their properties. Three companion ordinances were adopted to make the responsibility ordinance enforceable, according to the authority staff report.
To solve the problem, Del Norte County Code Enforcement Officer Dave Mason told the authority that they should consider an administrative citation approach to enforcement for garbage responsibility, Ward said.
Before the meeting, city manager Eugene Palazzo and county community development department interim director Heidi Kunstal weighed in with a letter to the authority board members:
“If the Authority’s ordinances are rescinded, the Authority will not have a means to regulate the collection and disposal of solid waste. The City and County will become responsible for managing all of the production, accumulation, collection and disposal of solid waste in their own jurisdictions,” the letter states. “Current staffing at the City and County is limited and overextended. Taking on additional assignments from the Authority, or taking over the responsibilities of solid waste management would require the City and County to hire additional staff.”
Trash collection responsibility wouldn’t fall on city and county governments, however, because of a second vote taken Tuesday.
After passing the ordinance that repealed all existing ordinances, the authority board subsequently passed an ordinance that restored the parts of the previous authority ordinances dealing with solid waste flow control and oversight for the franchises for collection and operation of the Del Norte Transfer Station.
Mason was called in front of the authority board to add to the discussion:
“I think I can cut to the chase here,” Mason said. “Because you’re having an independent contractor look at the functioning of the authority, and the goals and objective of the authority — or even the existence of the authority — are essentially in flux at this point, that’s why staff felt this repealing and reinstating was a little premature.”
Mason said that it would be better to wait for the authority to have “clear goals and objectives established” before repealing the ordinances so there is no lapse period when it’s unclear whose responsibility it is for trash nuisances.
Authority board member and County Supervisor Mike Sullivan told Mason that county and city staff were asked to come forward with ordinances the county and city could adopt to replace the authority’s ordinances.
“We’re asking you to go through the existing ordinances of solid waste and say what is something at the county that we need to adopt as well as at the city,” Sullivan said.
Authority board member and City Councilman Rick Holley said that there were community meetings and extensive discussions about the ordinances in 2008 and 2009 when they were passed.
“These were a good idea back then, and I don’t know what’s happened between 2008 and 2014 to make them no longer a good idea. So I don’t know if you can give me some sense of that,” Holley asked Mason.
“I wish I could. I really do. I don’t understand it myself to be honest with you,” Mason said. He added that there was no conflict with keeping the ordinances, even if some were duplicative city and county ordinances. “I don’t see an urgency to take it off the books.”
The recommendation to repeal the ordinances came from the Del Norte Solid Waste Task Force, whose membership includes landlords who have vocally opposed the ordinance requiring them to be responsible for trash collection.
The vote to repeal all of the authority’s ordinances passed on a 4-1 vote, with Holley in the minority.