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Carbondale trustees “punt” on trash ordinance

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Carbondale’s elected leaders on Tuesday once again “punted,” in the words of Trustee Allyn Harvey, on a proposed revision to the town’s trash-collection ordinance that has been under discussion for at least six years.

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Harvey, speaking on the KDNK radio station Wednesday morning, used that word to describe the lack of action by the Board of Trustees (BOT) at their regular meeting the night before.

The town government has been trying for all those years to come up with ways to modify the trash-hauling system in Carbondale that would increase residents’ access to recycling and composting collection services, consolidate trash pickup days and reduce the number of trash trucks that regularly ply the town’s streets and alleyways.

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The task of crafting an ordinance to that effect has fallen to the volunteers serving on the town’s Environmental Board (known as the E-board), in partnership with town staff and the Community Office of Resource Efficiency, or CORE, a collaboration that resulted in an initial draft ordinance submitted to the BOT in August.

On Tuesday, an updated ordinance was once again before the trustees, but once again there were questions about particular aspects of the proposed ordinance, skepticism and threats of rate hikes from some of the trash haulers serving Carbondale, and expressions of urgency for adopting the ordinance and working out the bugs later from some of those closely connected with the work done so far.

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“From what I can tell, we have everybody about equally upset about this,” quipped Town Manager Jay Harrington when he opened up the discussion about the proposed ordinance, which addresses only residential trash pickup and leaves commercial trash hauling for a later time.

“This is not anything perfect,” conceded Trustee A.J. Hobbs, who is the BOT’s liaison to the E-board and who was one of those pushing for adoption on Tuesday night.

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“It’s going to have its kinks that need to be worked out,” Hobbs continued. “It’s only a step in the right direction.”

Trustee Katrina Byars, a former E-board liaison, concurred with Hobbs that the ordinance should be adopted that night, and then fine tuned later.

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“It’s been going on and on,” Byars said, adding, “I don’t know if we can get to a place where everybody’s happy” with the language or even the direction of certain parts of the proposed ordinance.

Many of the questions that came up Tuesday night were about how the town will handle pick up of compostable materials, which are defined in the proposed ordinance as “any organic material that will naturally degrade and that has been designated as compostable by the public works director’s regulation in the ‘Compostable Materials List, and readily accepted by licensed composting facilities.”

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Those “materials,” according to the proposed ordinance, could include animal or vegetable scraps from preparing and serving foods, “paper products (without plastic coating) and products designed to completely break down in commercial composting facilities within 120 days,” and “organic yard materials.”

But the ordinance, if approved, would not require haulers to actually do the compost pickup themselves, simply to “offer” it, perhaps by subcontracting that part of the trash collecting to some other company, a detail that appeared to be problematic for the trustees.

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Trustee Pam Zentmyer, after hearing that rate hikes might be one result of passage of the ordinance as proposed, said that rate increases could be avoided if the town simply went to a “single hauler” system where one company does all the trash collection.

According to statements made at the meeting, Carbondale currently is down to “two or three” trash hauling companies, following a recent merger of two firms.

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“I think a single hauler will address a lot of the problems that we keep spinning out on,” said Zentmyer, who added that she felt strongly that compost pickup should be required of haulers.

“I think that should be our first priority,” she declared, explaining that composting removes food waste from the “refuse stream” and would cut down on the emission of methane gas from landfills, which contributes to global warming.

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Mayor Stacey Bernot, clearly frustrated by the direction of Tuesday’s discussion, stated at one point, “We’re not getting any closer. We are no closer, in my view,” to passage of a trash ordinance.

She suggested that the matter needs more work, perhaps a work session of the BOT and the E-board, to iron out remaining wrinkles.

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But Jason White, an E-board member, urged the board to pass the ordinance as presented, maintaining that some of the objections and questions “are already being addressed” by the E-board and can be dealt with in the coming weeks.

“The ordinance that’s in front of you is actually pretty benign,” White said, calling it a compromise among the E-board, the haulers, staff and other participants in the trash talks.

“I think that, for all the moving parts, we’ve done a really good job,” White concluded.

But the trustees were not ready to pull the trigger on passage of the ordinance, and directed staff to make some changes and bring it back to the BOT at a future meeting, possibly on Dec. 8.

In other action, the board:

• Decided to move its meeting night to Wednesday, based on a request from the mayor, who explained in a memo that the Tuesday meetings led to “scheduling difficulty in my personal life” due to the fact that her two teenaged children are active in high school sports and “many games are on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights, as well as other important school functions.” Other trustees quickly went along, noting among other things that changing the meetings to Wednesdays would provide more time for the trustees to absorb the information in the meeting packets. The issue will be brought up at a future meeting, with time for public comment, and the change would not go into effect until January, 2016 at the earliest.

• Approved liquor license renewals for The Goat Kitchen and Bar, White House Pizza, Rumba Girls Liquors and Phat Thai;

• Agreed to spend approximately $3,000 as a share of the cost of $9,750 for an independent review of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Environmental Impact Statement concerning gas drilling in the Thompson Divide;

• Approved a lease of adjacent public property to the owners of White House Pizza on Main Street;

• Approved a marijuana business license renewal for the ACME Retail Marijuana Store in the Sopris Shopping Center complex;

• Approved a transfer of a special use permit to the Blue Lake Preschool, which will begin using a property at the corner of 8th Street and Merrill Avenue, once used by the Faith Lutheran Church preschool;

• Approved a franchise agreement with the Comcast cable television company, after the town had gone eight years without an agreement and had considerable difficulty in negotiating a new agreement.

Published in The Sopris Sun on November 12, 2015.