Our Opinion: Get serious about Pittsfield trash

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A year ago, an effort to introduce some "soft enforcement" practices to Pittsfield's free-for-all trash collection system caused a backlash among residents, prompting the city to back off. Now some city councilors want to put an end to Pittsfield's unlimited trash pickup system. Doing so will require resolve that has heretofore not been seen.

Pittsfield residents, frankly, have been spoiled rotten by the city when it comes to trash regulations, or the lack of them. Last May, when Republic Services, the city's trash hauler, put stickers on garbage that was in violation of city trash and recycling ordinances, or refused to pick up trash altogether, angry residents launched a phone and social media campaign. The tentative trash crackdown came to an end.

An effort by Mayor Tyer to introduce a tote system that would have brought uniformity to trash pickup, made the city look considerably cleaner, and resulted in financial savings for the city after an initial investment also went nowhere, even though the tote system is readily apparent in neighboring towns. Residents again protested, and city councilors opposed the system on grounds that appeared to be related to the mayor having proposed it.

On Monday, the Committee on Ordinance and Rules dove headlong into the garbage with a 4-1 vote in favor of putting a cap on weekly pickups. (Eagle, May 9.) The city has in place a 32-gallon limit that residents have ignored for decades because it hasn't been enforced. Residents have put trash in front of their homes in huge, unsightly piles and tossed furniture and other items that didn't qualify for pickup curbside confident that it would all be collected anyway.

The committee now wants to put a cap of 64 gallons of trash curbside each week and no container can weigh more than 50 pounds, the latter provision an attempt to protect the backs of pickup personnel. Cue the angry phone and social media campaign.

The dissenting committee vote was cast by Ward 3 City Councilor Nick Caccamo, who argued, and not without good reason, that the city should have discussed the details of implementation and enforcement first. Finance Director Matt Kerwood, who is chairman of the city's Resource Recovery Committee, said he would discuss enforcement procedures with Republic Services, and it seems unlikely that Republic will be eager to get involved in enforcement of a major shift in trash policy after the way it was burned a year ago over a minor shift in trash policy.

Instituting a limit on the size of weekly trash pickups is a good idea and long overdue. The enforcement campaign of a year ago was a good idea and long overdue, and the same applies to the mayor's tote system. The curbside trash limit approved by Ordinance and Rules will now go before the full City Council, and if the Council is not willing to stand up to the inevitable pressure from trash-entitled residents and enforce this change in policy it may as well just trash the committee proposal and move on to the next agenda item.

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