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Paynesville Press - December 27, 2006

Paynesville Township passes garbage ordinance

By Michael Jacobson

Paynesville Township residents - both full-time and seasonal residents - will need to have a "Solid Waste Disposal Plan" on file with the township office, according to a new garbage ordinance passed by the township board last week.

The new ordinance will take effect in mid-March, 90 days after its approval by the board.

Garbage ordinance Since burying, burning, or dumping garbage is illegal, the township board devised the ordinance - written by their attorney - to ensure compliance with refuse disposal.

"All these people are creating garbage," said supervisor Pat Meagher, who brought the issue to the township board. "They need to have a way to get rid of it."

The ordinance does not mandate garbage service or any particular refuse hauler. It keeps the township open to all haulers for greater competitiveness. It does require that all township residents have a "Solid Waste Disposal Plan" on file with the township by mid-March.

The township intends to get a list from all licensed carriers who serve the township of their customers. Having garbage service from a licensed carriers satifies the requirements of the new ordinance, and residents with garbage service at their residence should not need to do anything as this service should be recorded by the township and comprises their plan.

The township attorney is currently designing a form for township residents. This form, with an accompanying letter, will be sent to residents (without garbage service in their name or at their residence) this winter, possibly in January. (Again, anyone with garbage service will have this recorded automatically, so they will not receive this letter nor need to file this form.)

A business owner, living in the township, might state their plan as bringing their refuse to their business dumpster, for instance. A seasonal property owner, on the other hand, might state their plan as bringing their refuse home.

Violations of this ordinance - for failing or refusing to make provisions for and secure disposal of their refuse - shall be punishable with a misdemeanor and up to a $1,000 fine.

Any burning, burying, or illegal dumping of garbage can be reported to the Paynesville Police Depart-ment at 243-7346 or local DNR officer Todd Vanderweist (243-3971) for investigation.

It is illegal to burn or bury any household garbage, said Don Adams, director of Stearns County Environmental Services, who attended the township meeting last week. Since 1995, it has also been illegal in Stearns County to burn farm-generated waste, too, he added. When asked for a burning permit - only vegetative material (brush and leaves) - may be burned, said supervisor Harry Thielen, who added that he tells people that anything that comes out of your house cannot be burned.

The township ordinance fits with the county's solid waste plan, according to Adams.

Input from Public Hearing
Prior to the board's approval of the proposed refuse ordinance, the township board held a public hearing on Monday, Dec. 18, in which concerns over the ordinance were aired as well as support stated.

Ed Lang was assured that all refuse haulers operating in the township would be contacted and that anyone with licensed service would have that service filed automatically as their plan, thus eliminating any paperwork for township residents like him with garbage service. He told the board that he did not think the ordinance would have the impact they thought on littering, which would still occur.

The new ordinance would not eliminate all littering, agreed Meagher, but it hopefully would make it better.

Township resident Nanette Frank asked about illegal dumping on their property and was told to call law enforcement - either the police or DNR - when it occurs. Law enforcement personnel will investigate illegal dumping - as well as burning and burying garbage - and violators will face a misdemeanor charge and up to a $1,000 fine if law enforcement can identify and prove the origin of the garbage.

The fine, up to $1,000, has to be enough to discourage violations of the ordinance and illegal garbage disposal, said township chairman Don Pietsch.

Township resident Floyd Lang said the township was already cleaner over the past four or five years, attributing much of the drop in littering of large items (appliances, etc.) to the annual spring clean-up. He said the new ordinance revealed the township board as a "dictatorship" and that they were taking away freedom from the residents.

Township maintenance man Mike Jensen said he stills sees quite a bit of garbage in township ditches when he mows, including water heaters, televisions, and dryers.

While the new ordinance will not eliminate all littering or illegal disposal, it should make it less likely, added Meagher.

Thielen added that the township's oil depot has been a great success and that this refuse ordinance was just another step to try and make the township a cleaner place to live.

Other townships, said Floyd Lang, think Paynesville Township is crazy for proposing this ordinance.

While no other townships are considering such an ordinance, answered Adams, it does fit with the county's solid waste plan.

Township resident Marty Frank said he finds his weekly garbage service as a "great asset" and said the ordinance was a good idea as long as it allowed for competition and as long as the township did not levy for garbage service. He was willing to pay for his garbage service but not for other's service (through a levy).

Marty Frank also expressed concern for people with excessive junk at their residence. There are ordinances against unlicensed and now inoperable vehicles as well as provisions should a property become a public nuisance (by possibly causing the spread of disease, via rodents for example), said Adams.

The Langs were also concerned that this new ordinance was being pushed by West Central Sanitation.

Jeff Bertram, who works for West Central Sanitation, replied that their company did not ask for this ordinance, already serves over 300 residences in the township, and is ready to compete in an open market in Paynesville Township. Rates for the city of Paynesville, which has a city contract, are lower than in the township, he added.

The ordinance passed unanimously by the township board.

Meagher suggested requiring recycling, too, but this was met with opposition from several township residents in attendance. Pietsch and Thielen preferred to encourage recycling when possible without making it mandatory.

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