The well-hashed unwanted trash conversation has come up twice in the last two Española City Council meetings. Understandably, city councilors don’t want trash on streets, public areas, parking lots or spilling over from business dumpsters.
That last problem is perennial and the answers sparse. The city doesn’t have the staff or equipment to keep the streets clean and weeds cut. Public services and recreation folks do the best they can but as an Española Valley High School coach said a few weeks ago, taking care of a sports field is a full time job for one person.
The city has several sports fields and a few public parks as well. Staffing in the recreation department for grounds care hovers around three. They barely keep their heads above water caring for parks and sports fields. Throw in medians and city property and they’re under water. Don’t expect them to pick up trash.
But City Councilor Peggy Martinez, who represents the west side can’t let go of the trash that collects on and around the two dumpsters between Murphy Express and Dollar Tree. That area attracts the worst of our citizenship and those dumpsters seem to reflect that.
It’s common in Española and Rio Arriba County for people to drive up to a private dumpster or polycart and treat it as their own. They have no concern for the problems they cause for the owner(s) of said trash receptacles. It’s just easier (and less expensive) for the scofflaws to dump their trash and make it someone else’s problem than be a responsible, mature adult and deal with it properly.
So the unfortunate owners of the businesses in the Walmart parking lot appear to be paying the freight on many non-paying trash dumpers.
Martinez’s first answer was to force businesses to lock the dumpsters, fence off the dumpsters or otherwise cover them so no one can access them without a key.
Councilor John Ricci immediately brought truth to that short conversation. He said people will just throw their trash on top of the locked or gated dumpster.
We can attest to that in spades. We pay $60 a month to have a recycle only dumpster. In the course of a month we’ll fill it with cardboard, newsprint roll ends, returns, used copy paper, other newspapers we trade with and recyclable paper the business department generates. We take other people’s old newspapers as well.
One of the jobs of a high and mighty powerful newspaper publisher every morning is to pick up trash around the building, scout for used needles and check for who has left what by that dumpster. We’ve become proud owners of broken baby car seats, home-made shelves that served their purpose worse than IKEA stuff, microwaves, coffee pots, dead animals, clothes and everyday kitchen trash.
We’d like to think we’re part of the solution in our readership area. But most Mondays, after feeding the feral cats, the next job is clean up after ill-bred people, junkies and the homeless. That leaves anyone dealing with those issues with a deep sense of that “circling the drain” feeling.
During the Sept. 28 meeting, Martinez took it a step further asking Planning and Land Use Director Muhammad Hussein if there was a way the businesses around Walmart could be cited for the loose trash, outside their dumpsters. Yes, let’s penalize the people employing citizens, paying Gross Receipts Taxes and providing a service.
Fire Chief Ron Padilla came to the podium and said he would make the rounds and cite businesses there for overflowing dumpsters. This is the guy responsible for putting out dumpster fires, so you’ve got to see his point, but again, penalize the business?
Ricci asked at the same meeting if the dumpsters could be emptied more often. That is possibly a short-term solution but it won’t stop the illegal dumping. However, it makes the business provide the answer for a problem it did not create.
We quit sending pictures to city police of the trash behind our office long ago. The only reason to fill out a stolen polycart report is to get a new one. The city Police Department is not interested in chasing down and citing polycart thieves and illegal trash dumpers. And who can blame them. It’s a dead-end deal and they’ve got larger fish to fry.
This goes back to the original issue with the North Central Solid Waste Authority when it was formed almost 20 years ago. Antonio DeVargas, of La Madera, has sued the Authority and continues to hound them about the billing process and lack of service.
And you can’t blame the Authority because it’s a chicken and egg thing. The Authority doesn’t have enough money to maintain its equipment, hire employees and run the routes. That’s because a lot of homes and a few businesses get service and aren’t billed for it.
The last two polycarts stolen from the SUN went into the hood along Railroad Avenue, so there are two residences getting service without paying.
There are often E-911 calls for stolen polycarts.
On the flips side, some people are billed but don’t use the service. Take snowbirds in the Chama area. They need pickup a few months a year, at most. But to get that you have to pay for regular service, albeit at a lower rate.
The answer is inventory the polycarts, match them to paying customers. There was an original reason behind putting a serial number on each cart. Send a bill to the homes with polycarts, but without an account. If they don’t pay, take the polycart.
It’s tricky but the Authority should try working with the city and Rio Arriba County land use departments to get ordinances implemented allowing either entity to cite homeowners for not having an account or if they can’t prove they dispose of their household trash some way, other than dumping it on a responsible business person’s dumpster or loading dock.
Want to attract businesses and retirees with money? Addressing the trash issue would be a good start. And stop putting more load on local businesses. We’re stretched pretty thin right now.