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Garbage hearing kicks up controversy

An amended waste management ordinance poised for a public hearing with Columbia County officials is too controlling, says one county commissioner.

“I didn’t like it,” said Commissioner Tony Hyde, following a hearing Feb. 20. “I don’t want to get to the point where we mandate what you can or cannot do in terms of [waste management] service. ... Anybody who owns a piece of property has the right to haul garbage off the property. Period.”

The ordinance seeks to regulate who can remove solid waste from property. The hearing has been extended until March 6, giving the commissioners time to examine the ordinance and relevant state statutes as well as allowing county residents a second chance to weigh in with their opinions and comments.

“It shall be unlawful for any person not franchised in accordance with the provisions of the ordinance to store, collect, transport or dispose of any waste or solid waste for compensation within Columbia County,” the amended ordinance reads, adding that a landlord would be allowed to occasionally remove solid waste from a residence when a tenant has moved away and abandoned the garbage.

The ordinance would also forbid the creation or maintenance of a disposal site or transfer station without being first franchised with the county.

One man who testified at the Feb. 20 hearing told Hyde the ordinance would put him in a bind. He regularly hauls garbage from the rental properties he owns after a city code enforcement officer showed up at his door and said he had to deal with the garbage piling up on the properties.

Hyde says only a small percentage of county residents “self-haul” — or remove waste without using the county’s franchised collection service — and they should be allowed to continue.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s their own call,” he said.

However he does draw the line when there’s a garbage truck and compactor involved, as the county does maintain agreements with waste removal companies.

Commissioner Henry Heimueller says the current version of the amended ordinance is too vague, adding that even the members of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee disagreed about the final meaning and intent of the ordinance during the Feb. 20 hearing.

“It should be clear from the outset or you’re creating more problems down the road,” Hyde said.