Mandatory solid-waste collection approved in Apache Junction

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Mandatory solid-waste collection from Republic Services for single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes --- with recycling as an option --- has been approved in three 5-2 votes by the Apache Junction City Council.

Councilmember Gail Evans, who later voted “yes” on all three items, said she has heard from numerous residents about the trash collection issue.

“All of the council members, we’ve had phone calls, we’ve had emails, mainly from the misinformation that has been given out there. And, we can’t base our decision on four people, on 40 people. We have to consider what’s best for the 40,000 people that live in the city and the 80,000 that live here part-time,” she said at the council’s Dec. 3 meeting.

“Our residents deserve to live in much-cleaner neighborhoods. Their property values need to be better-secured and not lowered by their neighbors having trash piles. And, even if you have one bag, one bag over five weeks is five bags. So you still have to have a means to dispose of your trash,” Ms. Evans said.

Dissenting on the three votes --- city code amendments, an ordinance and the March 2, 2020-Feb. 28, 2028 contract with the trash hauler --- were Mayor Jeff Serdy and Councilmember Christa Rizzi.

“I just wanted to see more things written in; so nothing against Republic Services, but ‘No,’” Mayor Serdy said when voting on the trash-hauling contract.

“While the general premise of the single-hauler system and lower prices is basically a good thing, I just couldn’t support making it mandatory. I wish we could’ve come up with some type of variance for folks that just don’t need the service or have legitimate alternatives,” he said Dec. 4.

The City Council at a meeting in August agreed to enter into contract negotiations with Allied Waste Transportation, also known as Republic Services, to become the municipality’s waste- and recycling-hauling sole provider. Republic Services’ bid was for $10.71 for curbside solid waste pick-up two times a week, with no recycling; and $18.71 for curbside solid waste pick-up two times a week plus recycling once a week.

The city code changes approved in the 5-2 votes become effective in 30 days. An emergency clause would have been approved if there had been six or more “ayes,” City Clerk Jennifer Pena and City Attorney Joel Stern said.

“It passes, but however would be effective in 30 days,” Mr. Stern said following a vote on the 2019 Amendments to Apache Junction City Code, Vol. 1, Chapter 9: Health and Sanitation, Article 9-5: Collection of Residential Solid Waste.

Also not approved with the emergency clause was the ordinance for the city code amendments.

City code changes

The legislative purpose of regulating the collection of residential solid waste is to promote the public health, safety and general welfare of the city and its citizens and to avert and mitigate any detrimental effects associated with the accumulation of trash, illegal dumping, insufficient solid waste collection receptacles, substandard collection vehicles and/or equipment, according to the city code.

Residential solid waste is defined as any garbage, trash, refuse, including solid, liquid, semi-solid liquid, or semi-solid or contained gaseous material, and any recyclable material collected from any structure or premises used as a domicile, dwelling or habitation, including single family, duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes.

Recyclable material or recyclables include newsprint, printed material, pasteboard, paper and beverage containers, wood, metals, plastics, glass, cardboard and paper. The contractor is to provide a list of acceptable items for recycling collection, which may be subject to change due to market conditions.

City code requirements include:

• All receptacles used by covered residences to store residential solid waste and for collection shall be constructed out of plastic and have a capacity of 96 gallons.

• Receptacles may be positioned curbside beginning at 4 p.m. the day before collection, but must be removed no later than 6 a.m. after the day of collection.

• To prevent residential solid waste receptacles from being left on the street or easily visible in yards from the street, receptacles shall be placed in or to the side of a garage, carport, residential unit, in the backyard, behind a fence or natural landscaping, decorative screen wall or other structure, to conceal from public view as much as possible.

• It is unlawful for any person to deposit, or cause to be deposited, any solid waste or recyclables in any collection receptacle not assigned to that person by the contractor.

Trash hauling contract

Items in the contract with Republic Services include how often it can seek an increase or decrease of fees, and allowing part-time residents to suspend their service for up to six months.

They include:

• At least 60 days prior to each anniversary date of when the services begin, contractor shall submit in writing a request to increase or decrease the rates for all services.

• The annual Increase may not exceed 5%.

• If unacceptable waste is discovered before it is collected by the contractor, the contractor may refuse to collect the entire pick-up that contains such waste.

• Contractor shall offer a suspension of service to any of the city’s residents or part-time residents for up to six months at the residents’ request for no charge. A city resident can begin services at any time during this six-month hold period.

• On a quarterly basis, the contractor shall pay the city --- for oversight of this agreement --- a fee, equal to 8% of revenues received by the contractor for services provided. Also, the city has the option to review the fee amount with the contractor for an increase every two years of the agreement.

Enforcement and penalties

Anyone not using curbside solid-waste collection in the City of Apache Junction could be subject to a fine of $350 on the first occurrence, $600 on the second and a misdemeanor criminal violation with a fine of up to $2,500 on the third.

Failure of a responsible party to subscribe to residential solid waste collection services is to be pursued by the contractor in writing, with civil citations pursued only after the notice has been refused, ignored or full compliance has failed, it states.

The city manager or designee shall be responsible for filing civil and criminal citations with the municipal court with the following minimum penalties:

• First offense during a 24-consecutive month period: civil penalty of $350;

• Second offense during the same 24-consecutive month period: civil penalty of $600;

• Third offense and subsequent offenses within the same 24-consecutive month period: class 1 misdemeanor criminal fine of not less than $1,000 up to $2,500, and other penalties as a result of the conviction.

“A criminal case shall only be filed only after two civil violations of the same type have been committed within the 24-consecutive month period,” according to the city code.

There is no felony provision in the ordinance, Anna McCray, assistant to the city manager, said at the Dec. 3 meeting.

“Much like other cities and towns --- and also consistent with our other chapter 9 code violations --- the civil and potentially criminal penalties for habitual offenders are much like ... our other chapter 9 code violations,” she said.

“Our ordinance also outlines the city’s intent to seek voluntary compliance through and through, again much like we do with our other code violations, and that is our intent. We’re not going to just simply start ticketing or fining people [at] the onset of this,” Ms. McCray said.

Ms. Rizzi said later that she was against having a class 1 misdemeanor criminal fine.

“I have an issue making (these) code-compliance violations, turning it into a criminal issue. I understand why we do it --- I understand we need some teeth --- but I have a problem with that,” she said.

Ms. Rizzi contends she received more than 200 phone calls and emails from residents concerned with the change to mandatory solid-waste collection, she said.

“The majority of the people who contacted me were against doing this service for various reasons,” Ms. Rizzi said. “In listening, one of the things that really stood out to me is that whether people are for going to the one service or against it --- for the most part everybody agrees that we need to clean up AJ. We need to clean up our community. Everybody agrees. What we disagree on is how to get to that point.”

Desert dumping and residents hoarding large heaps of junk in front yards are a problem in the community, but it won’t be fixed by requiring trash services, she said prior to the votes.

“Forcing somebody to have a trash can or a dumpster or a trash service is not going to prevent desert dumping... If we do go with the service, I want to keep track of how having this one trash service has reduced that, because I’ve got the feeling that it’s not --- it’s a different problem,” Ms. Rizzi said.

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