B y Derek Liebig
The village of Whitehall has begun the process of drawing up a new set of laws and legal definitions governing the collection and disposal of solid waste in the village that they hope will add some teeth to current laws and compel local residents to clean up their properties.
Officials hope the additions will strengthen current laws and clarify what’s permissible and what is not.
Mayor Peter Telisky said he hopes to amend the current laws with the proposed additions at one of the village meetings next month.
“This would be an additional piece to what we already have. We hope it will strengthen the laws already on the books and give them some more teeth,” Telisky said.
The new laws, when approved, are expected to address any confusion people may have had with the old rules and allow officials to more effectively enforce rules regarding the disposal of garbage.
The new law legally defines what constitutes garbage and solid waste as well as who is responsible for its removal and what is a suitable dumpster.
Under the proposed additions, solid waste will be defined as garbage, refuse and discarded materials, including but not limited to solid, semisolid, liquid and contained gaseous materials resulting from municipal, industrial, commercial, agriculture and residential units.
This will include junk cars, which have commonly been cited as a problem by Bennett in the past.
“There’s a difference between a car that’s taken off the road for the winter and one that sits on your yard in a state of disrepair,” Telisky said.
The proposed law states the village can exercise its police power to regulate all aspects of solid waste within the village and spells out the punishment for not complying with the law.
The law clearly spells out the duties of property owners and occupiers of the property.
It would require that occupants dispose of their solid waste in approved containers at least every seven days.
It also states that the land owner must supply approved, tightly covered, leak proof containers for solid waste and it’s their responsibility to arrange removal of that waste.
It would be unlawful for the owner of a multifamily home to fail to provide enough containers to prevent overflow of waste between collection times.
Landowners and occupants will be responsible for keeping the sidewalks, yards and dwellings free of all solid waste of every kind, including dry vegetation which could represent a fire hazard.
The law would also regulate the disposal of trash.
For instance, solid waste containers will not be permitted in the front yard of any buildings and must not be visible from the street except from5 p.m.on the day prior to its scheduled pickup.
It will also be illegal to landfill, store, or burn any garbage within the village.
Any person who violates any of the provisions of the law could face up to a $250 fine or 15 day imprisonment.
“If you have to go to court, it’s too late at this point,” Telisky said.
He said the village will work with people if they need help, such as the elderly, but if someone simply refuses to comply, they will be ticketed.
Earlier this summer, the village began an effort to compel local residents to clean up their properties. At the time Garry Bennett, who serves as the local ordinance officer, said some of the laws on the books were problematic and difficult to enforce.
For instance, there was a property on Williams Street that had officials “had a hell of time enforcing” because current laws didn’t address some of the issues.
It’s hoped the new laws will make enforcement easier.
Officials used New York State property codes and incorporated some of Fort Edward’s laws, a community Telisky compared to Whitehall.
“They are struggling like us and we’re both trying to prevent the community from falling apart. We can’t have these things in a healthy and safe community. If we are ever going to stabilize our taxes and want people to come to Whitehall we need throw out the welcome mat and clean up the community.”
To that end, the village has pledged to clean up their own properties. Employees have been cleaning up around the garage and there are plans to eventually resurface the parking lot.
They have also started to paint the village offices.
Telisky hopes to have the new laws ratified sometime in September so everyone can become familiar with them over fall and winter.
“We want to get everyone on board and hit the ground running next spring,” he said.