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Trustees OK bear ordinance

Locations: News Published

Addresses “a perpetual problem”

John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

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The town of Carbondale wants your trash to be stored in containers strong enough to resist a grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), even though it is highly unlikely that a “grizz” will ever visit your trash can or your home.

That is one of the provisions contained within an emergency ordinance passed by the town’s trustees at a meeting on Tuesday, which is intended to prevent the local population of black bears (much smaller and less fierce than grizzlies, but troublesome enough in their own right) from getting into your trash and triggering a process that too often ends when the bear is “put down” or killed by wildlife officials.

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“With the confluence of the Roaring Fork and the Crystal (rivers), they’re just starting to come into town more and more frequently,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Manager John Groves, about Carbondale’s growing bear problems. “As we’ve seen in Aspen, it’s going to be a perpetual problem.”

And town officials stressed that the problem is not with the bears, really — it’s the people, whose habits concerning trash storage are creating an attractive nuisance. Although there was some discussion about other attractions that draw bears, such as fruit trees in back yards, these things were not included in the ordinance.

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“What we’re looking at is trying to get people to put their trash in secured areas (and) comply with the hours (for putting out the trash),” said Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling, explaining the emergency ordinance to the trustees on Tuesday.

As part of that effort, the new ordinance states that trash should be stored in “bear-resistant” containers or structures, as outlined by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), which was founded in 1983 to lead the effort to pull the grizzly bear population of North America back from the brink of extinction.

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The “emergency” nature of the new ordinance is due to the town’s concerns that bears are being killed because of human failings — specifically, not using bear-proof containers for trash storage, and putting the trash out either the night before trash day, or in the hours before 6 a.m., which is the earliest time allowed under the town’s codes for putting the trash at the curb for pickup.

“The goal here is to have compliance, and we don’t want to have a bear put down,” declared Mayor Stacey Bernot.

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The new law changes the punishment for noncompliance to a ticketable offense, rather than one involving arrest and a summons into municipal court. Under the new ordinance, transgressors will be faced with fines of $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and $500 for the third.

The ordinance also permits fines to be put toward the purchase price of a certified bear-resistant container.

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And while the draft ordinance initially required commercial trash haulers to make bear-resistant containers available to customers upon demand, that provision was removed by the trustees and left for further discussion at a future board meeting.

And there is a lot to be discussed, town officials concluded, including:

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• Questions of government subsidies for the bear-resistant containers, which can cost about $250 per container;

• How the new containers will mesh with the technical requirements of the highly-automated trash pickup trucks;

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• And the increasing use of compost piles by local residents eager to live a “green” lifestyle, since compost also is known to attract the interest of bears.

No date was announced for the future discussions about trash, wildlife and related topics, though it was generally acknowledged it should take place soon.

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In an unrelated issue, the trustees held off on a decision about significantly increasing Carbondale’s investment of public funds, such as a proposed use of federal mineral impact funding, or a fee attached to residential water bills, to provide a “permanent funding source” for renewable energy efforts undertaken by the Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) and Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE) organizations.

Both organizations have long worked with the town to increase the energy efficiency of homes, businesses and government facilities, in order to reduce the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions attributed to local homes, businesses and governmental functions, as a way of combatting climate change at the local level.

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Representatives of CLEER and CORE had proposed using half of the town’s proceeds from Mineral Lease Fees and mineral severance taxes, which this year came to roughly $600,000 paid by energy companies operating in Garfield County to offset socio-economic impacts from oil and gas extraction activities.

While the proposed energy-efficiency efforts were generally supported by the trustees, they balked at using that much of the energy-impact funds, and asked for more information about the idea of tacking a fee on residential water bills.

In other action the trustees:

• Approved special events liquor licenses for the upcoming Oktoberfest and Celtic Fest celebrations, scheduled for Oct. 3-4 in downtown Carbondale, and a fund-raising event called Rock ‘n Roast, for the Mount Sopris Montessori School to be held on Oct. 17 at The Gathering Center on Snowmass Drive.

• Conditionally approved a retail marijuana business license for the Acme Healing Center of Carbondale, 958 Highway 133 in the Sopris Shopping Center.

• Approved a liquor license transfer for The Goat Kitchen and Bar, 995 Cowen Drive, to sole owner Stacey Baldock, who is planning to make changes to the business.