Mansfield has momentum for change in trash regulation — but to what? | Solutions
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final story in a four-part series dealing with garbage problems in the town of Mansfield. The series began on Monday by looking back at more than 20 years when the city stepped out of the municipal garbage haulage business. Part II looked at current urban garbage problems and Part III looked at what cities in Ohio of comparable size are doing.
MANSFIELD – It has been nearly two decades since Mansfield’s laws regarding garbage collection and illegal dumping changed.
Meanwhile, few would argue that the city’s garbage problems have worsened, leading a local resident to refer to Mansfield as the “wild west” of garbage – a comment published in the Richland Source after speaking to residents last fall developed citizens’ agenda was found.
Several garbage trucks can roll through a local neighborhood every day. Bags left on the curb days prior to collection are often torn open by animals and the contents scattered.
Tires and other forms of illegal dumping are widespread in certain parts of the city. Rental properties where tenants don’t pay for the trash and just fill the garage or basement with trash is a recurring problem that clears up the clutter for others when they leave.
By the time Richland Source began investigating the problem in January, Mansfield had a few private freight forwarders who didn’t even have a license to operate the city, which has been required annually for two decades.
Other cities of similar size are treating their garbage problems differently, and it appears that Mansfield City Council and the Mayor’s Office are gaining momentum for change.
Some of this momentum could be fueled by a changed council pushing new ideas. Five of the eight voting members are brand new or in their first elected term.
The questions are complex. What do the residents want to change? What are you willing to pay for? And how brave will the city guides be to bring about change in an area that has been clearly identified as a priority in numerous public debates?
Mansfield City Council on Tuesday approved the new five-year plan for the Richland County’s Solid Waste District, which could include a police officer in charge of waste control. (Photo of the Richland source file)
IMPOSSIBLE OPTIONS: Let’s start with a few options that don’t seem likely.
Mansfield left the municipal garbage handling business in 1998 for financial reasons. Nobody believes that returning is financially possible.
Lancaster, Fairfield County, spent more than $ 4 million on trash hauling around the city in 2019, including a sanitation department with 23 employees and six trucks. There is no money in Mansfield’s budget to restart a plumbing department, buy trucks, etc.
It is also unlikely that Mansfield will offer a single contractor city-wide garbage transportation services. This is how several cities in Ohio of comparable size handle it. Such contracts zone these cities, which means that it’s not every day “garbage day” in a neighborhood.
Some of these cities, like Brunswick, bill the owners for the service and there is simply no opt-out. If you own the property, you pay for the weekly garbage service.
There are now at least seven private freight forwarders licensed in the city of Mansfield, and a city-wide contract could put, or at least financially, burdens on companies that keep the contract out of business.
Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker (Richland Source File Photo)
“Free enterprise is pretty good,” Mayor Tim Theaker told Richland Source. “A long time ago (when city traffic shut down) Lydia Reid (former mayor) must have been very careful and decided that free enterprise was a good idea … keeping multiple companies in place.”
Jean Taddie, the 6th district councilor who campaigned against litter, doesn’t think a single contractor is a good option either.
Jean Taddie, Mansfield Councilor in the 6th Ward, has made Mansfield trash a priority in her efforts.
“We have a number of rubbish haulage companies … that could put some of them out of business. We want to be aware of this. Is there a middle ground?” She asked.
Councilor David Falquette said at least four local lawmakers are currently working with the city council on options.
“I think the whole council wants something better, but that doesn’t include city workers picking up rubbish again. A single haulier would be a quick fix for uniformity, but I like free enterprise too much and I want everyone legal and licensed Freight forwarders should be able to service the town of Mansfield, “Falquette said.
Mansfield City Councilor David Falquette said he supports free enterprise for local garbage haulage companies.
Council chairman Cliff Mears is also against an individual transportation contract.
“Garbage transportation is handled by private contractors. I wouldn’t change that as I believe that a competitive environment for this service will save our residents money,” he said.
OTHER OPTIONS: What are the other areas for improvement? Do the changes have to be profound?
“I think we can make some big improvements with small and incremental changes,” said Taddie. “We need to bring everyone to the same table – garbage hauliers, the garbage area, the health department, residents, landlords and people who volunteer for charity.”
The simplest change would be for the city to start dumping trash in hardened bins when it’s brought to the curb, rather than just plastic bags. This is a common requirement in other communities and seems a no-brainer.
Is it possible to come up with a plan that would allow multiple private hauliers, yet still allow the city to be zoned?
“One of the biggest complaints (from local residents) is how random the garbage collectors can be when rubbish is picked up,” said Alomar Davenport, councilor for the 4th Ward.
“A constant complaint is that someone has pick-up every day. A proposal to create zones where every neighborhood has a pick-up day can go a long way towards solving this problem. It will allow citizens to continue choosing their carrier, not me picked up on their street every day, “said Davenport.
Alomar Davenport, 4th district representative of Mansfield City Council, asked if zoning of garbage transportation in the city was possible.
The city could also make garbage service a requirement for owners. There could be no opt-out. All landlords, for example no tenants, would be responsible for the garbage service.
Regarding illegal dumping, the city could begin tougher enforcement of the regulations it already has on the books. This would require code bloat and allow effort and better coordination with the law firm and police.
Penalties need to be tightened if the city is to stop illegal dumping, other community officials have said. Some cities have made it a serious crime punishable by imprisonment, not just fines.
Taddie said she has code enforcement on the speed dial for residents of her community.
What would happen if this were the case with a lot more residents? Is the department staffed enough to respond to this? And what would it cost, which is essential for a city with a “flat” temporary budget for 2020?
“Codes and permits have been understaffed for years and have (only) limited financial resources. Given their daily challenges, I appreciate the work they are doing with the limited resources,” said Jon Van Harlingen, City Councilor of the 3rd Ward, who chairs both holds committees in the areas of finance and zoning.
It is clear that for the first time in years there is an impetus for change in the way we handle garbage in Mansfield. Theaker and councilors said they are working on improvements.
Garbage has been clearly identified as a priority issue by the residents of Mansfield. The next few weeks and months will determine whether city leaders listen and what they want to do about it.
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