The city's enforcement of a new bear ordinance had some residents growling Tuesday.
On Tuesday and Wednesday morning, the Steamboat Springs Police Department handed out 52 tickets to people violating the city's new, stricter trash ordinance, which is designed to discourage bears and other wildlife from coming into neighborhoods in search of easy meals.
In January, the City Council passed an ordinance that required residents to use a wildlife-proof container if they put their trash out before 6 a.m. or left it out after 8 p.m. on a trash pick-up day. The ordinance went into effect May 1.
The first ticket for violating the ordinance is $100, but offenders can have the fine waived if they show proof of purchase of a wildlife-proof trash container.
Since the enforcement began, Waste Management officials said more than 200 wildlife-proof trash containers have been ordered.
Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said the lack of compliance coupled with the number of containers bought after enforcement started indicated that people were not going to follow the new ordinance until the tickets were handed out.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Westland Trailer Park resident Stewart Lynn complained about the ticket and fine. He said almost everyone in the park was ticketed, and he accused the city of targeting a poorer section of town.
"As much as I understand the need for this, have you ever seen a bear over in Westland Trailer Park?" Lynn asked. "It's nothing more than trying to get money for the city."
DuBord said the ticketing was not about more revenue.
"I want people to do the right thing, to get the wildlife-, bear-proof containers," she said. "I don't care about the $100."
Early Tuesday morning, the police designated an officer to follow that day's trash route and document those who had their trash out before 6 a.m. Later that day, the officers contacted people about the violations, Sgt. Nick Bosick said.
The police department plans to continue enforcement of the trash ordinance throughout the city. Because trash pick-up was in the downtown area Tuesday and Wednesday, that is where the tickets were handed out.
Despite the half-dozen phone calls DuBord had received complaining about the unfairness of the ordinance, DuBord said residents were warned it would go into effect May 1.
Since the council approved the ordinance in January, she said, there have been public service announcements on the radio, ads that ran on the newspaper's city page for five weeks and free brochures distributed by the city.
In April, police officers were given the brochures and warnings to hand out to those who were in violation of the bear ordinance. Those warnings were distributed all over town, Bosick said.
DuBord said that no part of city would be immune from enforcement of the bear ordinance, just as no part of the city is immune from bear visitations.
"There isn't a single area of the community that hasn't had bear problems," DuBord said. "We have had bears on Oak Street, had one at Soda Creek Elementary School, bears at Howelsen Hill, bears on the mountain, bears on Blue Sage Drive and Fish Creek Falls Road, bears along the river."
People who are caught violating the ordinance twice will pay a $150 fine for their second offense, which can be reduced if the offenders prove they purchased or made a wildlife-proof container.
On the third offense, a judge can mandate the offenders purchase a wildlife-proof container and tack on a fine of as much as $1,000.
DuBord said the chance to have the $100 fine waived is a good deal for first-time offenders because the fine is more expensive than the cost of a wildlife-proof container.
For a one-time fee of $26, Waste Management will set up a wildlife-proof trash container and service it for an additional monthly cost. For those already using a 96-gallon trash can, it would be an extra $5 a month within the city limits. For those using a smaller trash can it would be an extra $10 a month.
A local hardware store also is selling wildlife-proof containers. At Ace at the Curve, a wildlife-proof 95-gallon trash can costs $197.50 and a 64-gallon trash can costs $179.50.
The new ordinance also provides for a City Manager Rule, which would allow the city manager to require residents to purchase a wildlife-proof container if they had more than one reported incident of wildlife in the trash in a three-month period. The manager's rule could apply to those who did not violate the ordinance.
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