Aug. 22, 2002
Beginning Sept. 1, Herndon residents who repeatedly violate the town's newly adopted solid waste ordinance could be charged $50.
In a 4 to 3 vote during last week's public hearing, the Town Council approved a plan, backed heavily by the Herndon Community Association Coalition, to punish residents who dump large items, such as refrigerators or furniture, or repeatedly leave trash bags outside of secure trash cans.
The vote came one week after Herndon Mayor Richard Thoesen publicly recommended lowering the proposed "special handling fee" for violating the town's trash collecting ordinance from $50 to $25. The vote also marked the end of a six-month debate about the town's trash collection policies.
Agreeing that something needed to be done, the mayor reiterated his position that he believed the fee was too steep. "I think that this has the right ta-ta but the wrong ho-ho. Fifty dollars is very tough and people are going to be soured by it," Thoesen said. "I don't think we should give someone a $50 fine for an occasional bag on the side and with this ordinance we can. We're not going after those people who are prone to disobey our ordinances, we are prone to go after everybody."
Despite the objections of the mayor, a majority of the council voted for the $50 fee. The fee would be levied against any Herndon resident who, on second notice, failed to follow the guidelines for trash removal. Currently, there is no fine for failing to comply with the Department of Public Works regulations.
<b>RESIDENTS WILL</b> be permitted to appeal the fines to the town clerk within 30 days of the alleged violation. In turn, the council will have 90 days to rule on the appeal.
"Living in a high density community requires all neighbors to cooperate with each other to create a safe and clean environment. Almost everything you do has an effect on your neighbors," said Jean Deavers, president of the Tralee Homeowners Association, speaking in support of the motion.
"Remember intent is the operative word here. Most people want to cooperate, a small number of people have no intention to cooperate so we create an incentive," argued Deavers. "For some people keeping your hand out of their wallet is a greater incentive for them than having a better neighborhood."
Supporters of the new ordinance repeatedly pointed to the existing special $25 fee for a pre-arranged pick-up of oversized items. Deavers, and others, argued that reducing the fine charged to violators would encourage non-compliance.
<b>"THE FEE</b> that we are recommending will get folks' attention," said Charlie Waddell, chairman of the HCAC. "If you don't make the fine severe enough, you will not get compliance."
Vice Mayor Carol Bruce agreed with Deavers and Waddell. "The fee needs to different. It just seems illogical to charge someone the same amount who goes and does the right thing and arranges for a special collection and then charge someone who thumbs their nose at the process the same amount," said Bruce. "The reality is this $50 is going to be levied against someone who dumps their trash and degrades their neighborhood. I find no problem with the fee."
Three members of the council did have a problem with the fee. Council member Connie Hutchinson tried unsuccessfully to reduce the $50 figure to $35. She was able, however, to strike out language mandating "tight-fitting lids" on all trash cans. Hutchinson, who along with Thoesen and Dennis Husch voted against the measure, agreed with the mayor. "I do have a problem with the $50 fee and I do see it as a fine," she said. "I understand the problem, but I want to make sure we are not being overly harsh here."
Husch's criticism of the new ordinance went beyond the amount of the fee. Husch said he did not like the idea that those people picking up the trash were also responsible for policing the process. "I think what we are guilty of coming up with a one-size-fits-all solution here, but fortunately we are not a one-size-fits-all community," he said. "There are some communities where this might be appropriate but there are other communities that this may not be appropriate at all."