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City board approves amended ordinance requiring ‘bagged’ leaves, grass clippings

By Bill Short

Flag City LogoThe Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has passed an amended ordinance on final reading that requires leaves and grass clippings to be “bagged” for city pickup.
Board members took the action during a March 23 special called meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Mike Caruthers and seconded by Alderman Frankie Dakin.
The motion was passed by a 4-1 vote, with Alderman Larry Dagen dissenting. Aldermen Bethany Huffman and Thomas McGhee were absent.
The original ordinance was unanimously passed on first reading at the board’s Feb. 9 meeting, but amendments were prepared and proposed by Caruthers.
The ordinance states that leaving “yard waste” and other debris in the street is “unsightly,” potentially hazardous to motorists, and it contributes to problems with the city’s storm drainage system.
It amends Title 17 of the Municipal Code to allow residential refuse containers to be placed curbside in front of the house, on the grassy area between the curb and the sidewalk or at the end of the driveway for collection.
If the Public Works Department has designated an alley for collection behind the property, the container must be placed curbside at the alley.
“Curbside” is defined as the area between the curb and the street, or in the yard next to the street if there is no curb or sidewalk.
In cases where curbside protrudes into the street and becomes a hazard to traffic, the Public Works Department will inform residents that the containers must be placed in the grassy area between the curb and the sidewalk.
The location of commercial containers will be based on configuration of the property.
The Public Works Department can authorize individuals with “special needs or disabilities” to receive service without placing their containers curbside.
Residents have the option of placing appliances, yard waste and other debris, including bags of grass clippings or leaves, at curbside or on the grassy strip between the curb and the sidewalk.
Items must be placed away from structures, such as mailboxes, fire hydrants or utility poles.
If the Public Works Department determines at any time that placement at curbside is unsafe, it will coordinate with the resident for alternative placement.
For properties with a drainage ditch bordering the edge of the pavement, placement must be behind the ditch up to a maximum of 10 feet from the edge. If this is not possible, residents can contact the Public Works Department for a “suitable drop-off location.”
It will be unlawful to place any yard waste, trash, trees, appliances or other debris on the paved surface of any street. The exception will be if the material that extends into the street beyond the curb is not deemed by the Public Works Department to be a hazard to public safety.
Residential property owners who want leaves to be collected must place them in either the city-provided cart or in closed and tied bags weighing less than 40 pounds each.
The city can advertise the dates of loose-leaf collection as determined annually by the city manager. The dates will begin no earlier than Nov. 15 and end no later than March 15.
To be collected, loose leaves cannot be placed in the street, in drainage ditches or on sidewalks.
No yard waste or other debris can be placed in a location or in a manner where it will block the view of a motorist.
Individuals convicted of violating the ordinance will have to pay a penalty of up to $50. Each day that a violation continues after notification by the city will constitute a separate violation.
During discussion shortly before the vote, Caruthers expressed “some concerns” about the original ordinance, because some “rewrites” he had been expecting were not done. He was primarily concerned about some of the “definitions.”
The ordinance originally defined “curbside” as the grass strip between the curb and the sidewalk. But Caruthers said Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “the side of the street bordered by a curb.”
“That makes it very confusing,” he noted. “And we’re trying to apply this ordinance to every street in the town.”
Caruthers requested that the board schedule a work session with the Public Works Department to “hash it out again.” Because the ordinance had been “sitting around” since former city attorney Barbara Lapides worked on it, he did not see a “big sense of urgency” to pass it on final reading at the meeting.
But Dakin said the sense of urgency was because the ordinance had been “sitting here” for several years, and the board had not “done anything with it.”
Mayor Terry Jones noted that the ordinance had been reviewed by current City Attorney Charles Perkins, who said several residents had submitted some proposed changes.
“I didn’t see that any of the suggested changes made any more sense than basically what you have before you,” Perkins told the board members. “So, I thought the ordinance in its current form was fine.”
But Caruthers said that, if a resident puts a bag of leaves or grass clippings “curbside,” it will extend 16 or 18 inches out into the street. He noted that, in his neighborhood, curbside is only 12 inches wide.
“If you have a bag that’s 16 inches wide,” he said, “you don’t want to get a $50 fine because it’s 4 inches too wide into the street.”
Dagen pointed out that the board will never have an ordinance that will “fit every situation.”
While noting that he rewrote “three paragraphs” with suggested amendments, Caruthers was not sure it would be fair to ask the other board members to review them at the meeting.
But after the alderman recited his proposed changes, Perkins said he did not have “any problem” with the suggestions he made.

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