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|Monroe council approves fines for garbage violations|
The Monroe City Council signed off on amending an ordinance to allow the city to impose fines for residents and businesses that dump garbage the city normally does not pick up.
In spite of several city residents voicing their apprehension over the ordinance amendment at the city council's regular meeting Tuesday, the council voted 3-2 for the amendment. The amendment will allow the city to charge residents $50 to pick up garbage or other waste the city normally does not pick up, while businesses could face a $100 fine for illegal dumping.
City council chairman Robert "Red" Stevens suggested postponing the ordinance amendment for 90 days to make sure concerns expressed by residents were addressed.
Councilman Robert Johnson agreed to Stevens' motion, which failed.
Residents or businesses that do not pay the fee for dumping garbage the city will not pick up will see the new fines doubled for every seven days thereafter.
Those who refuse to pay the fee can have their water/sewer cut off until it is paid in full.
The ordinance also requires residents in the city of Monroe not to place their containers at the curb before 4 p.m. on the day prior to collection. Garbage containers also must be removed by nightfall on the day of collection.
Some residents applauded the city council and Mayor Jamie Mayo for their efforts to improve the image of the city. Others questioned how the city would enforce the measure, and if any consideration would be made for the elderly and the poor who do not have the means to move items such as furniture and televisions from their property.
Stevens said enforcement is the biggest concern in his area where he says people who live outside his district often dump trash at various homes in his district.
"How do we enforce this?" Stevens said.
City attorney Nanci Summersgill said, "The enforcement issue is a problem if the people in that neighborhood can't tell us who's doing this. The only thing we can do then is pick it up. Everybody on that street can put out stuff and tell us they didn't do it, and how do we ever figure it out? We'll have to deal with each circumstance as it rolls around."
Several councilmen agreed the ordinance will need to be tweaked.
"We know we're going to have to tweak it some and listen to the public and make some corrections," said councilman Ben Katz. "There are some people who are chronic in their abuse, and those are the ones we want to stop."
First, a 90-day educational campaign will be spearheaded by city officials to inform residents what they can and cannot do under the amended ordinance.
Once that is done, they will be expected to follow the rules or face additional fees on their water/sewer bills.
Johnson took issue with the ordinance not having some form of notification to violators, who now may not know they violated city code until they see an additional fee on their water/sewer bills.
Summersgill said every water bill will include a reminder of what residents can and cannot do under the amended ordinance. That information also will include telephone numbers that residents with questions can call.
She said if the ordinance outlined a notification process, that could just create a situation where residents could claim they did not receive their notice.