Nederland gives code enforcer ‘more teeth’

Published 8:15 pm Thursday, September 17, 2015

Council cracks down on trash abusers to clean up neighborhoods

NEDERLAND — The days of junking up Nederland neighborhoods with miniature mountains of trash with no repercussions are coming to an end.

Steve Hamilton, Nederland Public Works director, said it’s become a frequent problem by a select group of individuals over the last few years, and the city will no longer ask the other residents to pick up the slack in the solid waste fund.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“Each resident with a utility account is allotted four cubic yards of trash collection every two weeks, but we have some residents putting out 10 cubic yards of trash every two weeks,” Nederland City Manager Chris Duque said during a City Council meeting Monday. “We’ll pick it up Monday and by Tuesday morning, there’s a new pile. That happens all over town.”

Hamilton said four cubic yards is about the size of the bed of a pick-up truck.

“The trashiness of the community is growing at an alarming rate, because we have no ordinances in place to keep them clean,” Duque said. “The majority of people are following directions and keeping the piles contained to four cubic yards. But the people who are always pushing the system, unfortunately, have pushed to the point where we aren’t going to take it anymore.”

Beginning with the new fiscal year Oct. 1, all Nederland residents with a utility account will be charged $20 for each cubic yard of trash that exceeds the four cubic yard maximum already in place.

“This isn’t about making revenue for the solid waste fund,” Duque said. “This is about cleaning up the neighborhoods. Our code enforcer has repeatedly said, ‘I need more teeth behind these ordinances. I need actual punishments to make people follow the rules.’”

“This will definitely give her more of a bite,” Hamilton added. “We hope this fixes it. I’m not sure how much further we’ll be able to go short of bringing people to court.”

Duque said the new penalty fee aims to “protect and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods and business areas” while making sure the small minority of people currently “abusing the system” are held accountable for their actions.

“It’s gone downhill dramatically in the last two years. You can drive into any neighborhood right now and see a problem,” he said. “We can’t pick up everything the way our system works now. But with the new rules — starting Oct. 1 — if you put more than four cubic yards of trash out on your property, you’re asking us to clear it away and agreeing to pay for this service.

“You will get the allotted four cubic yards cleared for ‘free’ as part of the utility fees you already pay, and everything beyond that original four will be charged $20 per yard. We will no longer accept this as ‘standard practice.’ The trash fairy (isn’t) going to take that away. Someone has to physically do it, and it’s not fair for every other customer to absorb the cost for people who aren’t being responsible with their services.”

City Council also updated the definition for “elevated-risk properties” Monday night, with a $250 security deposit built in to help incentivize tenants to respect their landlord’s property.

“Elevated-risk properties are renter-tenant properties that have at least two disconnect-reconnect and/or late payments during the 24 months prior to setting up the service,” Duque said Tuesday. “The revision states the deposit will increase to $250 for any elevated-risk properties that have had trash or solid waste abandoned there within the last 12 months. When the tenants move out of these properties, we will not refund that $250 deposit until all the trash is cleared away and all services are cleared and closed by the city.”

Duque said the “overwhelming majority” of residents will not be affected by either update to the utility ordinances, but both measure give Code Enforcement Officer Carolyn Sias better footing to protect and improve Nederland neighborhoods.

For more information, call Duque at (409) 723-1503 or Hamilton at (409) 723-1541.

Twitter: @crhenderson90