LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette City-Parish Council is considering new laws that would fine residents who leave their trash bins at the curb too long after pick-up and make it tougher for rural residents to avoid paying for mandatory garbage service.
The proposals, which are still in the early stages of development, were outlined this week by the Public Works Department as part of a package of possible changes to regulations that govern waste collection.
A draft of the proposals calls for a fine of $25 each time a trash cart is not pulled back from the street within 24 hours of service. Residents would receive at least one warning before facing fines.
City residents and rural residents who live in subdivisions would be required to pull the trash cart to within 3 feet of their homes, and rural residents living outside of subdivisions would be required to pull the cart back at least 10 feet from the road.
Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux said the proposal, which will likely face revisions, could address what he sees as an issue of aesthetics and safety.
“It’s unsightly,” Boudreaux said of trash carts left at the street all week. “You want to gather your garbage in a secluded and private area.”
The councilman also cited problems of trash carts blocking sidewalks or roadways.
But Boudreaux said he is not sure if heavy handed enforcement is needed.
“I am very confident that with a little education, awareness and warnings, a lot of the problems will correct themselves,” Boudreaux said.
Councilman Andy Naquin said he might support a fine of some sort for neglected carts but opposes a provision that would allow city-parish government to seek a lien against someone’s property for nonpayment.
“It would be a tough sell,” Naquin said.
He said that in some cases, the problem of carts being left at the road might be with a renter, not the property owner.
Another proposed change aims to force more rural residents to sign up for garbage service, which is mandatory in the city of Lafayette and the unincorporated areas of the parish.
In the city limits, nonpayment has not been an issue because the garbage fee is included on bills from the city-owned utility service, Lafayette Utilities System.
In rural areas of the parish, garbage contractor Allied Waste handles the billing, and forcing everyone to pay has been an ongoing issue since the council instituted mandatory garbage service in 2001 in an effort to curtail illegal dumping.
An estimated 1,200 to 1,500 homes in rural areas of the parish are not registered for garbage service, City-Parish Environmental Quality Manager Mark Pope told council members this week.
Nonpayment for garbage service is a criminal violation in Lafayette Parish, but Pope said attempts to enforce the law were abandoned several years ago because prosecutors were reluctant to pursue the cases.
Without the threat of some form of penalty, city-parish government has no leverage to force people to sign up, he said.
“If we send a notice, it’s a paper tiger,” Pope said.
The proposed changes would make nonpayment for garbage service a civil violation, meaning city-parish government could pursue fines without relying on the District Attorney’s Office.
A draft proposal calls for fines of $50 per day for every day without trash service, with a penalty cap set at 30 days.
City-parish government could pursue liens against the property of homeowners who don’t pay the fines.
Naquin said he is concerned about rural residents not signing up for garbage service but is also wary of pursuing property liens.
He suggested the possibility of working with the private utility companies that serve rural Lafayette Parish to restrict utilities for those who refuse to sign up for garbage service.
Councilman William Theriot, who represents rural areas in southern Lafayette Parish, said he is unsure what changes, if any, need to be made and that a better tactic might be a focused outreach to rural residents who are not paying.
“This is one I think we need to have more discussion on,” he said.
The proposals are set to be tweaked in the coming months, and the council has set no firm timetable for when the measures might come up for a vote.
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