|Pittsfield Councilors Told Trash Hauler Started Enforcement On Its Own|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
01:08AM / Wednesday, May 23, 2018
|The mayor told the City Council that she did not authorize the enforcement of the trash ordinance.|
Mayor Linda Tyer has put a halt on the additional enforcement following public outcry.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The mayor says the city's trash hauler halted trash pickup in some cases and placed violation stickers on bins and bag throughout the city on its own.
Recently, Republic Services began what City Hall is calling "soft enforcement" of the city's current trash ordinances.
The workers started placing violation stickers on residents' trash bins if they did not comply with the standards and in some cases refused to collect trash or recycling because of non-compliance.
However, very few people in the public knew it was coming. That triggered outrage and confusions throughout the city.
On Tuesday, Mayor Linda Tyer said she had nothing to do with it.
"At no time did I authorize any kind of soft enforcement," the mayor said, and later added, "I don't disregard the public to that degree."
Instead, the mayor said an employee of Republic Services sifted through the city's ordinances and crafted a checklist of violations on his or her own. That checklist was then printed and handed out to all of the drivers, and the drivers complied.
"We were just as stunned as you," the mayor said.
"What we've been implementing, both the Health Department and DPU in partnership with Republic Services, is to see what we can implement immediately, some enhancements with our current system. We've been in some regular conversation and daily email with Republic Services to expand the use of the service issue sticker. This serves as a daily method to educate our community as to what constitutes a violation when placing trash on the curb," Armstrong told the Resource Recovery Commission on April 19.
When asked about a timeline, she replied, "they're using it now."
At that meeting, Armstrong said Republic had earlier in April started to sticker the most egregious cases but that the practice was expanding. She provided a list of 12 items that would be considered violations -- the list that presumably became the checklist handed to Republic workers.
"Now we are asking them to place the notice on containers if, for example, they see bulky waste that doesn't have a sticker on it, construction material, recyclables not in properly contained ...," Armstrong said.
But, that message apparently never reached the mayor's office or the City Council. Both offices said they were surprised when the enforcement began.
As enforcement rolled out, the outcry from residents led the administration to order a halt. Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood, who also chairs the Resource Recovery Commission, characterized it as a time to "reboot and move forward."
"If people keep doing what they are doing, all will be well." Tyer said.
Tyer did say that talks about enforcement had been kicked around on a number of forums, including that Resource Recovery meeting and with the City Council's Ordinance and Rules Committee. But, she said it had never been finalized when an employee of Republic essentially said. "Go."
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell said the city is now in the position of "damage control" and wondered if the action of the employee could be considered a breach of the city's contract with the hauler.
"We have to have damage control now based on their actions. In my opinion, a vendor should not put the company or a municipality in that position," Connell said.
At the same time as all of this, the City Council's Ordinance and Rules Committee has been busy working on rewriting the entire ordinance. Within months, the city could have a brand new set of regulations while the current trash ordinances hadn't been enforced in a number of years.
"We are in the middle of Ordinance and Rules working really hard to overhaul an ordinance that clearly hasn't been followed for years and years. While we are doing that, why would we turn around and enforce what hasn't been enforced?" Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo said.
And the enforcement comes on the heels of the administration's toter plan being rejected by the City Council.
The Resource Recovery Commission isn't currently tasked with solid waste. That commission had originally crafted the details around the toter proposal but had made its recommendations. It reconvened in April to take on requests from the city councilors to develop a recycling education program, which is in the works on a separate track.
All of that contributed to ongoing confusion in the city about trash pickup.