ESB backs off trash cart fine plan

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By Tris DeRoma

The Environmental Sustainability Board tabled an ordinance Thursday that would have fined residents $50 to $200 for bringing their trash out too early, and for not keeping the roll carts in a secured, covered area when not in use. 

“I was appalled by the ordinance we got back from county legal, we had what we thought was a reasonable approach,” Chairman John Bliss said.

According to Fine and ESB Liaison Angelica Gurule, the ordinance had to meet a certain legal standard to be enforceable, and what came out of the department was not their intention.

“Ordinances cannot be suggestive,” Gurule said. “You cannot have suggestive language, it cannot be enforceable.”

The original draft ordinance contained no mention of structures where the carts are to be stored when not in use, only that they be “neatly stowed.” The second violation gave the owner the option buying a bear-proof container or paying the fine. 

James Robinson, the author of the ordinance, said the board’s main intention was to keep the public safe from the bears that have become used to digging through resident’s trash bins in Los Alamos County. 

“We’re going to go back to the drawing board, and formalize something that’s more adaptive,” Robinson said.

In the meantime, the board is going to focus on bear awareness and education in an effort to keep the public safe. 

Robinson said they are going to focus more on educating the public about bears. Actions will include public outreach at events like Los Alamos’ annual Bearfest, which is held in the spring and which Robinson helped found. The ESB is also going to try other methods of public outreach and increasing the number of bear-proof rollcarts in the county.

“In the next few years, down the road, should an ordinance need to be put in place, then we’ll consider it.” He also said that if and when the board considers another trash ordinance, it will be a more “robust, public process.” 

A few residents came out to speak against the ordinance during a public session. 

 “We go to sleep at maybe three to four o’clock,” our garbage pickup is at eight o’clock in the morning, which would mean that somehow, we would have to find a way to get it out there between a time when we just go to sleep and when they pick it up. It needs to be considered for people’s health reasons, and for people who work different schedules,” said one resident.

Another resident, Alice Skehan, was for the use of bear proof trash containers, but the building of structures just to cover and contain the containers she thought was impractical and expensive. She also said the bears that have already become used to trash, need to be euthanized. 

“Unfortunately, the bears that are now in our town need to be put down,” she said. “...I think once they start getting a taste for food, there’s no going back.”

Resident Julie Bennett showed off a homemade device to scare bears away, saying this might prove to be an alternative solution. The device is set up around the rollcart and whenever a bear approaches, the light and radio come on, scaring the bear away.


“It would be cheaper than a $200 roll cart,” she said