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County amends garbage rules

by: SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - The Columbia County Commissioners continued a public hearing on a waste management ordinance numerous times, aiming to gather public input. The hearing finally closed April 10. SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTOColumbia County Commissioners plan to approve an updated, clarified waste management ordinance soon.

The public hearing has finally closed on the amended ordinance which seeks to regulate who can and cannot remove solid waste from property. The hearing was extended several times to allow for more testimony.

Though the process was arduous — the hearing first began in February — Commissioner Henry Heimuller believes it was necessary to really dig into the ordinance and make sure the language was clear.

From the beginning, Commissioner Tony Hyde has said he’s against the idea of strictly regulating self-haul practices. The garbage companies who hold franchises with the county shouldn’t feel threatened by the small percentage of county residents who self-haul, he said.

But he is in favor of the amendments, which restrict landlords in their ability to self-haul from tenants’ properties. Landlords will be allowed to clear out garbage if a tenant moves and leaves a mess behind.

“I still don’t like it,” Hyde said about the amendments. “I think it’s a little heavy-handed, but it is a very small situation we’re talking about... There’s parts of it I don’t like, and parts of it I do.”

He says the new, precise language will be better for everyone over all, though. When laws are vague, “that’s where we always get in trouble,” he said.

Commissioner Earl Fisher agreed, saying the ordinance’s wording makes the law more understandable.

One landlord who testified at several of the hearings said he had been hauling his tenants’ garbage routinely ever since he was told by the city code enforcement in St. Helens that he needed to take care of any garbage problems at his rental properties. He was not present at the final hearing April 10.

The final amendments to the waste management ordinance will come back to the commissioners for final approval in an upcoming meeting.