Letter to the Editor

Storm Lake garbage

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ever since I become vocal on the current Storm Lake garbage controversy by writing letters and speaking up at Storm Lake City Council meetings, I have been approached by numerous people who agree that having mandatory pick-up for all residences and businesses is not the answer.

Some of the main points to consider are:

• Personal Responsibility – Many of us prefer to handle our own refuse and plan our own schedules for transporting things to the Harold Rowley Recycle Center and/or taking care of our own composting. We should not be forced into accepting arbitrary collection times and fees that do not work well with our private lives. And those of us, especially all of the elderly people like me, who do not create much trash should not have to pay large monthly bills for a private service we do not need. Also, some of us have personal pride about not having junk sitting in front of our property. I hated the time the live skunk trap was situated in my front yard for several weeks, causing an extremely unsightly situation until the uncaught scented creature was tragically hit by a passing vehicle while crossing the street. The deal is, not everybody wants to have ugly objects or personal refuse out on display until a garbage truck arrives. Most of us are responsible about managing our own garbage without government interference.

• Nuisance Properties – Numerous businesses and homes without garbage service have unsightly and unhealthy situations in which excessive garbage accumulation is a menace. There are also circumstances involving places that do have garbage pick-up, but not all of the garbage is put out because the amount exceeds the number of bags allowed. Or, I have noticed businesses that pay for huge dumpsters that are inadequate for the volume of garbage they generate, leaving the unsightly overflow to blow around and annoy people passing by. There are already laws on the books to take care of these various problems, and adding new regulations that may not adequately address specific situations is not the solution.

• Rental Properties- I have heard complaints that Storm Lake has many rental properties in which the tenants do not dispose of their garbage properly. If that is the case, the owners should step in and take care of this by educating their renters on what the legal options are. If the residents refuse to handle their household waste in a proper manner, the landlords should arrange for regular garbage service and add the fees on to the monthly rent.

• Garbage Bidding Process- If the city decides to go ahead with mandatory garbage service, the bidding process may force local residents to financially support an undesirable company from another community. It would be unlikely that an outsider would provide the same level of excellent service, community involvement, and support of local organizations and non-profit events that the Neuroth family has offered over the past 56 years. The low bid may not necessarily be the best bid for our town, there may be line item considerations on water bills that are not included in bids, and the process may not account for the total financial and moral situation involved, especially for those of us who believe, whenever possible, in supporting local businesses that deserve to be supported.

• Garbage at Parks- I was dismayed to hear that, because some residents deposit their household waste at inappropriate places, garbage containers have been removed from several parks. Also the bad idea of not having a trash bin installed at the new park being developed on the corner of Russell and East 5th Street is being considered. The solution is simple. Many communities have specific garbage collection containers with openings designed to only accept small amounts of garbage, not hefty bags of junk. Over the past 27 years, I have attended probably a thousand events at cities or parks throughout the Midwest, and to entertain myself while walking around or waiting for awards, I usually start picking up trash, which has allowed me to become acquainted with the various types of garbage containers available. My favorites are the dark green ones in Minneapolis with small circular openings on the tops accessed by lifting little handles. They are not only kind of cute, but very useful in helping visitors keep the parks clean, while deterring illegal dumping.

• Education and Enforcement- Newcomers and others who are not following current garbage regulations need to be made aware of the proper way to dispose of garbage. This could be done by having information provided in Storm Lake’s monthly water bills, and also by having realtors and landlords letting people know about the options available. And all residents could become more diligent about keeping up their own property and reporting conditions in which garbage has become a problem. And let us not forget the children – the future caretakers of our community. They could be reminded that trashing the town is actually a violation of every single pillar in the popular “Character Counts!” program that is currently being taught in our public school system. Also, in addition to being immoral, littering is illegal.

• Character Does Count- Those of us who are trustworthy and responsible about taking care of our garbage, care about our community, and strive to be respectful citizens should not be penalized by the actions of those who are causing garbage problems in Storm Lake. We are not criminals who need to be punished because others refuse to follow the law. That is a flagrant violation of the principle of fairness.

The majority of residents want Storm Lake to be a safe, healthy, clean, and visually appealing community. This goal could be accomplished without forcing mandatory garbage pick-up.