Tahoe trustees split on mandatory bear-proof containers | SierraSun.com

Tahoe trustees split on mandatory bear-proof containers

Kevin MacMillan
These are examples of different sized bear-proof totes — not to be confused with bear boxes, the latter of which is not on the table to be mandated.
Courtesy IVGID |

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — While elected officials in Incline Village are split on mandating wildlife-resistant trash containers for residents and commercial properties, one trustee is making it clear where he stands.

“I feel like we are not taking responsibility and ownership, that instead we are maintaining the typical Incline Village/Crystal Bay divided community, trying to throw blame … as to whose fault it is, and I take issue with that,” Jim Hammerel said at Wednesday night’s Incline Village General Improvement District board of trustees meeting. “We can’t keep our trash contained — that’s the problem. Do we need mandatory trash receptacles? Yes.”

For the second month in a row, Hammerel and the four other trustees took no action after a two-hour debate on a growing issue pitting the community’s bear population against humans’ ability to contain their garbage.

Trustees Bruce Simonian, Joe Wolfe and Bill Devine each said they were not comfortable enforcing mandatory containers with residential property owners.

“Let’s enforce our ordinances before we go out and make people spend extra money,” said Wolfe, the board’s vice-chair. “I think we really ought to look hard on commercial before we ever look at residential.”

The fifth trustee, Jim Smith, said he wasn’t 100 percent sure about residential, but felt the district needed “to change commercial as soon as possible.”

On average, there are roughly 2,900 trash pick-ups per week and 150,000 pick-ups per year throughout the community, according to IVGID.

Since enacting a solid waste enforcement program in 2005, the district had received 840 trash complaints through Sept. 30 of this year, 346 of which were wildlife-related.

However, from Sept. 16 to Oct. 15, 2013, the district recorded 44 complaints, 20 of which were wildlife related, with most coming from commercial properties.

The increase is due to the district’s recent switch to a more proactive enforcement strategy, said IVGID Interim General Manager Joe Pomroy, in which the district spends money to patrol the village and cite properties that don’t secure trash correctly.

Considering the larger problem appears to be with commercial properties, Devine said it may be prudent to look at mandating wildlife-proof Dumpsters among the community’s roughly 300 businesses and homeowner associations.

Board chairman Bruce Simonian agreed.

“I would hate to mandate bear boxes for the community, without taking necessary steps up front. That’s a final decision we would make … and I’m not in a rush to get there,” he said. “I think we need to look at this instead of punishing everyone up front, and take it one step at a time.”

Hammerel, however, was quick to counter.

“For us to kick the can down the road and ask for more input or wait to make a decision — it seems like we’re not doing our job as a board,” he said. “We were elected to make tough, dirty, messy decisions, decisions that cost money. I’m ready to take action.”

Before adjourning, trustees asked Pomroy to present proposed updates to IVGID’s trash ordinance at the Dec. 11 board meeting for possible approval.

Pomroy said the proposal’s main highlights will include:

an option for mandatory wildlife-proof Dumpsters for all commercial properties.

an option for mandatory wildlife-resistant totes for residential properties.

a 10-year franchise extension with Waste Management, the private company IVGID contracts with to provide solid waste service to the community.

According to the district, mandatory totes would increase monthly trash rates by nearly 30 percent for most residents.

While a variety of pricing scenarios exist, the most common is homeowners who pay $20.84 month in trash rates. In the proposal, Waste Management would supply each homeowner with a bear-proof tote, and that monthly rate would jump to $28.90.

Incline resident Michelle Filippini urged trustees to mandate across the board in an effort to save black bears from being killed due to their perceived threat to humans.

Trustees need to “act like leaders and make the tough decisions they’re elected to do,” she said, because, “doing what is right doesn’t mean everything should be … the popular vote.”

One area of confusion trustees pointed to Wednesday is the public’s understanding of what a bear “tote” is, versus a bear “box.”

A tote is essentially a fortified trash can with wheels that’s stored outside of public view, much like trash cans currently are. Boxes are larger, metal enclosures often affixed on a property near the road.

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