Property owners who fail to get rid of garbage could soon face a fine for violating Kent's solid waste ordinance.
Tonight Kent City Council is expected to vote to formally direct city administrative staff to develop a draft ordinance that would include fines for property owners who fail to dispose of garbage and other solid waste from their land.
From there, city administrators will draft the ordinance and come back to council in the coming months with recommendations for action.
Kent Health Commissioner Jeff Niestadt said he recommended adding fines to the existing solid waste ordinance (section 521.08 of the General Offenses code) to give it some teeth and help keep the city's tree lawns from collecting garbage for days at a time.
"Whether it’s beds or couches, we see a lot this time of year," Niestadt said. "Basically what I’d love to do is add monetary penalties to that section of the code for solid waste offenders."
Niestadt said the existing process for the city to act on a solid waste complaint can prove laborious and expensive for city personnel.
If a solid waste complaint is made, city health staff verify the violation and issue a 48-hour notice to the property owner to remove the garbage. That notice is sent via certified mail and costs the city $4.68 each time a notice is mailed. If the property owner fails to remove the trash, then either the city removes it or contracts with a waste disposal firm, who then bills the city for the removal.
If a property owner does not reimburse the city for the removal cost, then that cost is typically tacked on to their annual property tax bill by Portage County.
Niestadt said there are a lot of repeat offenders who will let the city clean-up trash from their property and then pay the bill later.
"They do take up a lot of our time," he said.
Niestadt said in one day earlier this month he wrote 14 solid waste violations spread out on University Drive, Sherman and Linden streets. The city has spent $645 in certified mail costs on solid waste violations alone this year.
Kent City Councilman John Kuhar said the city should keep in mind that in some cases a landlord or property owner may not know if a tenant puts garbage out several days before the scheduled pick-up.
"I think maybe somewhere in there you ought to notify both the tenant and the owner. Start making them a little bit accountable," Kuhar said. "The continued offenders I think (are) most definitely a problem in town. We need to look at this."
Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said she would like to see the fines also apply to bottles, cups and cans that can litter a yard after a party.
"I think we need to make sure once we give adequate notice the first time we need to have the problem dealt with,” she said.