A motion by Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna to give residents a little more leeway with extra trash in the week after Christmas turned into a larger discussion about overall trash fines at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
McKenna asked that Mayor Brian Arrigo request the municipal inspections department not issue trash violations during the Christmas holiday week. “During Christmas holiday week, I just think we should give the residents a present and not ticket them because their garbage can is over five inches,” said McKenna. “I had a senior citizen call me about this, and he said his garbage – he only had one barrel and he was putting the extra stuff he had, the overflow, in this barrel and he got a $25 ticket. I’m just asking the city to overlook during Christmas holiday and New Year’s holiday for the overflow.”
Serino said he has also received similar complaints from residents about fines due to trash overflow during the holiday season. “I think we should grant a reprieve for that week because it is a major overflow,” said Serino.
Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo said there should be more discretion by the city when it comes to issuing trash fines overall. “We used to have a major, serious rodent problem here in the city, and we went through a lot of different measures – but these are our own residents,” said Rizzo. “I think we can implement a little common sense. If someone is running out with the last bag and the trash is coming today, and it’s popped open a few inches, come on, I mean, let’s give our own residents a break.”
Ward 3 Councillor Anthony Cogliandro said he would support the no-ticketing policy for every week the city has a bulk, overflow pickup week.
Ward 5 Councillor Al Fiore said one of the biggest concerns he heard from residents during his campaign was about the city balancing the budget on the backs of the taxpayers with $25 fines at a time. “Now I understand the reason behind doing it, but I don’t think rats understand the difference between a warning and a fine,” said Fiore. He added that he will be going through the city ordinances and making amendments for the city to issue warnings instead of fines for issues such as the trash overflow.
“It’s really been a problem for the residents of the city; it creates a lot of frustration. I don’t think it’s right, and I think we need to look out for our own,” said Fiore.
Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe said he agrees with McKenna’s motion, but took exception with Fiore’s contention that the city was balancing the budget through a series of $25 fines at a time. “What I do want to say is that there was almost a full year of amnesty on this program before they really started truly enforcing it,” said Keefe. “We had a serious rat problem – we had a serious rodent problem – in our city; it’s not gone away, but it has definitely subsided. I don’t think we are building the budget on the backs of $25 tickets; I hate to say it but that is political fodder; I hope we are not going to be dealing with that all year.”
Fiore in turn took exception with Keefe’s characterization of his motives. “I’m very disappointed in Councillor Keefe and I hope we can end that here; you’re better than that,” said Fiore.
Joe Lake, the DPW general foreman, said he supports giving some leniency during the holidays, but added that trash has become a major issue and that the city has spent a lot of time trying to resolve the rodent issue. “We got it resolved with the barrel program, a very energetic barrel program that cost the city a lot of money,” said Lake. “I agree with Councillor Keefe. I also believe it is partisan politics on Councillor Fiore’s part. The bottom line is Councillor Keefe is correct – there was an issue; there was a serious and major problem in the city – we have corrected it.”