Each spring, almost like clockwork, the question of how to control what people drop into their burn barrels comes before the city council. Normally the problem is with those who use their burn barrels to get rid of household garbage and plastic waste. This year the move to prohibit burn barrel use popped up because regulation of their use will soon become a county wide issue.
>With enforcement of present penalties for illegal use of burn barrels the stumbling block, the proposal to prohibit the use of burn barrels in the city, has been shelved
The question, Fire Chief Bob Schnoor said was, who is going to enforce the regulations once the city fire department becomes part of the rural fire district. Since the city adopted Ordinance 1047, which established penalties for violations to the burn barrel)s limited use, Schnoor said no citations have been issued. Last year the fire department received and responded to 53 complaints about people burning plastic or other foul smelling debris. So far this year, 32 complaints have been filed.
Those complaints were what brought the issue up this year, according to Ron Kleinschmit, Prineville)s public works coordinator and nuisance abatement officer.
The problem, he told the city council is actually with a very few resident's use of burn barrels. His office has received numerous calls about people stinking up neighborhoods by burning garbage in their burn barrels.
"Most of the complaints are from elderly people," he explained as the reason for the request to prohibit the use of burn barrels. Would such an action make the problem go away, he asked? "No, it would just make it more enforceable. It's a tough one. Having a burn barrel is like an inherent right in Prineville."
Councilman Jerry Blank commented that it sounds like it would inconvenience a lot of people for the sake of enforcement. "Why not try enforcing the penalties we have in place and then, if that doesn't work, then ban them (burn barrels)."
Another council member, Dorless Reid agreed. "There are already penalties in place to take care of violators. I have asked a lot of people and I can find no one with a problem with burn barrels."
Kleinschmit said enforcement means taking a police officer off whatever he is doing to go out and serve a citation. "A total ban is one way and going out and issuing citations is another. I don't know what the answer is. It's tough."
Police Chief Jim Souls reminded the council that the police department's job is to enforce the city's ordinances. "The way the present ordinance is written, it is vague enough that getting a judgment is difficult. The easiest way would be a blanket thing that would outlaw burn barrels. That's easy to enforce. We can do that."
But when it came time to vote on the proposed ordinance banning burn barrels, there wasn't enough support. Until next spring, when the issue is sure to come up again, residents living within the city will continue to be able to burn debris in their burn barrels.