PAWTUCKET – City leaders gave their initial stamp of approval last week to a plan that would penalize residents who dispose of bulky waste items in improper ways.
Public Works Director Dave Clemente, speaking to a combined meeting of the ordinance and public works subcommittees at a pre-Thanksgiving meeting on Nov. 23, explained the plans to solve the city’s issue with such items cluttering local roadways for weeks at a time.
A side benefit of changed procedures in the DPW will also lead to reduced contaminated recycling loads, he said, which is becoming “a huge issue right now that we’re trying to get a handle on,” and is costing the city a lot of money.
Clemente explained that officials were unable to locate language requiring that bulky waste pickups be scheduled with the DPW, which the changes recommended by the joint committee last week address. He said he could implement the changes immediately if not for the need to implement a new series of fines for violations, which needed council approval.
The council committees last week recommended both a change requiring that bulky waste pickups be scheduled with the DPW and one setting a schedule of fines for violations.
With a new schedule in place and two new employees on duty dedicated to these quality of life issues, said Clemente, the DPW will be able to tackle issues much more quickly.
He emphasized that the city is simply fining people, not officially citing them, so these matters won’t be going to court. Instead of “leaving it (bulky items) there as an eyesore, he said, everything will be addressed “all in one motion.”
Councilor Terry Mercer asked about safeguards to make sure that the right people are fined, and Clemente said that a list of people who have called to schedule a pickup will be maintained.
Answering questions from Councilor Mark Wildenhain, he said the most time any items would be left out for now would be seven days.
On the issue of contaminated recycling, which Clemente said the city will take a bit longer to enforce as it works on reminding residents of the rules about keeping trash out of recycling bins with stickers on the bins, he said it’s almost gotten to a point where the city would find it cheaper to simply dump contaminated recycling as trash at current tipping fees than to pay the $250 fines for contaminated loads and adding tipping fees at commercial rates for those loads.
“That’s clearly not what we want to do,” he said.
Answering Councilor Melissa DaRosa’s suggestion that more education might do the trick, Clemente said at this point, with 20 years of recycling under the city’s belt, everyone knows that trash bags and dirty diapers don’t belong in the recycling bin. He said education is fine, but the city will be prioritizing warnings that residents could be fined if they violate the rules again.
“It truly is out of control,” he said.
Wildenhain said the committee can meet again in the new year to see how the program is going and what tweaks might be appropriate.
Clemente said monitoring of recycling loads is an add-on benefit to the wider changes being made on bulky pickups.
The Breeze reported last week that the DPW would be adding a truck with a lift and two employees to help keep up with the problem.
Bulky waste monitoring will be on a two-week rotation. In week one, the crew will follow the trash collection routes, picking up any unscheduled bulky waste on city sidewalks along with any emergency requests that come up.
Week two will be slightly modified, with the crew following the same process as week one for Mondays and Tuesdays, but then one employee moving on Wednesday to Friday to inspect recyclable materials for contamination and helping zoning in the fining of violators. The other employee will be used elsewhere in the DPW, including for graffiti removal and sign repairs. Clemente told the council last week that he expects to change the schedule based on needs identified.
The new DPW employees will be cooperating with zoning by documenting and writing fines.
Under the policy, bulky waste items must be scheduled with the DPW and the appropriate fees paid prior to pickups being made. Violations for not scheduling pickups with the DPW would result in fines of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, and $400 for the third or subsequent offense.
Mercer asked at the Nov. 23 meeting what happens in the infrequent instance of someone dropping a mattress in front of a home that’s not theirs, particularly in congested areas.
Clemente said there’s no good answer, and the city will take each situation on a case by case basis. Because these won’t be court matters, it will be much easier to take a look at each individual case to consider the nuances of it, he said. Residents also have the right to appeal fines to Pawtucket Municipal Court.
The city requires a $16 charge to dispose of refrigerators, freezers, mattresses, and box springs. There is no charge for stoves, washers, dryers, air conditioners (limit two per year, additional air conditioners are $16 per unit), water coolers, or televisions. All of these items must be scheduled for pickup by the owner of a property before putting them on the curbside.
Call 401-728-0500, ext. 233, to schedule collections, and visit www.pawtucketri.com/public-works-department/trashrecycling-collections for a complete list of rules.