Isle of Palms City Council passed a recommendation two weeks ago that, if it becomes law, would begin ticketing island residents who leave their recycling bins out on the street too long.
The motion passed by a 5-4 vote with mayor Dick Cronin, Barbara Bergwerf, J. Martin Bettelli, Michael Loftus and Doug Thomas approving. Mayor pro tem Ryan Buckhannon, Jim Carroll, Sandy Stone and Jimmy Ward voted against.
This does not mean it immediately became a law. “An ordinance reflecting this change should be on the March city council meeting agenda for the first reading,” Emily Dziuban, assistant to the Isle of Palms city administrator, said. “It would have to pass a first reading and a second reading at a subsequent council meeting to become law.”
Dziuban added that this ordinance is “intended to mirror the existing ordinance related to roll-out carts (for trash).” That ordinance states that trash carts cannot be placed out for collection before 5 p.m. on the day before collection, and they have to be removed from the right-of-way before 9 a.m. on the following day after collection.
The Isle of Palms Police Department enforces a warning system before ticketing. Residents are allowed three warnings every year before a citation is written. At the end of the year, all previous warnings reset.
Buckhannon voted against the recommendation, because he's worried that it may deter residents from continuing to recycle. “This action mirrors that of our broken federal system. We need to enforce our current laws, instead of burdening our residents with a redundant ordinance that only grows the size of our small government through increased regulations and fines,” Buckhannon said.
“We need to continue to educate our residents, not legislate them. I would hate to see residents abandon the recycling initiative that has decreased the amount of trash leaving the island by over six tons annually, which decreases the city's spending resulting in a tax savings for our residents.”
Cronin defended his vote in favor of the recommendation, saying Friday afternoon that it's an ordinance that will keep the Isle of Palms clean.
“Frankly, the only difference is the color,” he said, contrasting the blue recycling rolling carts and the green trash rolling carts. “We just want to keep the island as clean and pristine as possible for everybody to enjoy,” he added.
Cronin said he expects the 5-to-4 vote to continue at every step before it's added into legislation. “Most citizens respond willingly and happily,” he said. “When they don't respond, we have the power to fight them (with a fine), but all we tend to do is give them a warning. We haven't issued a citation in a number of years.”
Through a public records request, Cronin's statement that citations are rare was supported. In 2011, there were 88 roll-cart warnings issued and no citations given. In 2012, there were 138 warnings and no citations. To date in 2013, there has been no warnings or citations. A trash citation costs $50, so presumably that would also be the cost for a recycling citation.
Cronin disagreed that it would deter residents from recycling at all. “Everybody is for that process, and if people leave their (recycling) cans out indiscriminately, then something has to be done,” he said. “It's offensive to their neighbors more than themselves.”
Trash is currently collected every week, and in the peak season – summer months – trash is collected twice a week. Recycling is collected every other week.
The attorney in charge of drafting the recommendation into the appropriate legalese to be voted on during a future city council meeting was not given a deadline, according to Cronin, so the next vote could be March 26 or at a later meeting.