Archive for Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Proposed Baldwin City littering ordinance draws criticism

Baldwin City government

Baldwin City government

March 17, 2015

The Baldwin City Council approved Monday the first reading of an ordinance that makes it a municipal offense to litter.

The ordinance defines littering as disposing of trash on public property and as transporting loose materials that can blow from a vehicle or truck. The ordinance further forbids depositing yard waste, such as grass clippings or leaves, on public places, including city streets and sidewalks.

The fine for violating sections of the ordinance is $100. The ordinance also allows the city to have the cost of any cleanup assessed to the offending property owners taxes.

Steve Bauer, who is running for City Council, asked the council who was behind the staff recommendation the ordinance be approved. He said the ordinance stemmed from a disagreement between a contractor who mowed the lawns of his rental properties and contractor who mowed the neighboring lawn of Baldwin City Administrator Chris Lowe, who is on a spring break in Colorado with his family. The ordinance was too vague and could subject property owners to petty fines, he said.

Council members, particularly Ken Wagner, who is a member of the public safety committee that developed the ordinance, defended the measure. It was based on one from Lawrence and came with the recommendation of Police Chief Greg Neis, he said. Police officers would use their discretion when issuing tickets and wouldn’t harass those with a few blades of grass on the sidewalk, other council members said.

Wagner said Neis requested the ordinance because the littering tickets his officers currently issue, such as when a truck loses materials on city streets or roads, are under the jurisdiction of the Douglas County District Court. The ordinance would make littering a municipal offense and subject to the jurisdiction of the Baldwin City Municipal Court.

Councilwoman Christi Darnell suggested tabling the ordinance so that its origin could be reviewed, but the three other council members at the meeting, Wagner, Shane Sharkey and Jason Mock, disagreed and approved the ordinance for a second reading.

The debate of the ordinance resurfaced when the council approved a resolution that designates Collin Bielser, city community development director, as the city public officer responsible to investigate such nuisance complaints forwarded from the police chief, fire chief or health officials, such as junked vehicles, weed and, dangerous structures.

As the public officer, Bielser would have “the right of access and entry upon private property at any reasonable time for the purpose of making inquiry and inspection to determine if a nuisance exists,” the resolution states.

The resolution based 3-1 with Wagner voting no. Wagner said after the meeting he voted against the resolution because he didn’t want Bielser to be singled out for attacks, such as he said another city employee was earlier in the council meeting.

In other action, the council:

Approved first reading of an ordinance consolidating the membership of Baldwin City Board of Zoning Appeals with that of the Baldwin City Planning Commission, as allowed under state statute.

Approved purchase of a 2015 four-wheel drive service truck from Dale Wiley Chevrolet for $30,564.

Approved a contract with Professional Engineering Consultants, P.A., to design a multi-use trail from Ames and 11th streets to the Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center for $12,800.

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