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Garbage discussions set out for another week

by: SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - A public hearing on amendments to Columbia County's waste management ordinance is still open to receive oral and written testimony. County Commissioners have called the proposed amendments too strict.The debate about who can and cannot haul garbage from Columbia County properties will continue at a Columbia County Board of Commissioner's meeting April 10.

The record will open until that time to receive written and oral testimony. The proposed waste management amendment has been on the table since February.

Todd Dugdale, director of the county's Land Development Services department, reviewed similar waste management ordinances in nine other Oregon counties and concluded that few specifically allow landowners to self-haul while some forbid it outright. Commissioner Tony Hyde calls the strict haul policies "draconian," saying such ordinances only benefit the franchised garbage haulers who have agreements in place with county governments.

"Just what exactly are they afraid of?" he said at a public hearing April 3. "Are they afraid all the landlords are going to rise up and start hauling all their own garbage and really cost the franchises a ton of money?"

"From a practical standpoint," Hyde added, "how many landlords want to buy a truck and start hauling garbage for their tenants?"

Landowners who do self-haul garbage have told the county they've received mixed messages. On one side is the county, forbidding the practice in its proposed ordinance amendment, but on the other side, they have city code enforcers who have told them they have to deal with any garbage problems on property they own, said St. Helens resident Will Kessi, who routinely hauls away garbage from his tenants' homes.

"I think the sticking point is that I own the property," Kessi said. "I'm ultimately responsible for everything that happens on that property. That's different from hauling for somebody else. I think that's the real crux of it."

He said he hauls the garbage to keep his properties clean and reduce costs for his tenants, and he takes precautions to make sure the waste doesn't leak out in-transit.

Commissioner Earl Fisher said it is one of the classic problems when governments craft policy.

"Some people will use common sense and other people will not," he said. "So you pass a policy or regulation or rule to take care of the person who would perhaps not be as thoughtful as others."

Even though the process has been arduous — the public hearing has been extended twice now — Commissioner Henry Heimueller said the policy discussion is a necessary exercise. The old ordinance was outdated, he said.

The board is accepting written and oral testimony until April 10 at 10 a.m. when the hearing will begin again. For more information, contact the Board of Commissioners office at 503-397-4322.