Aberdeen council adopts new trash pickup ordinance

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Ordinance 18-O-19, which makes residential trash containers part of the Aberdeen city code and sets fees for services related to trash and recycling pickup, was adopted by the unanimous vote of the mayor and City Council earlier this week.

“What this ordinance does, practically, is it codifies the plan that the city wants to implement as it relates to garbage [pickup],” Mayor Patrick McGrady said before the council’s vote Monday night.

The city has, in recent months, been distributing Toter-brand trash and recycling containers to about 4,600 residential customers.

Aberdeen has shifted from a pay-as-you-throw program — in which residents placed prepaid stickers worth $1 each on each container of trash they generated — to providing one 64-gallon wheeled trash container and one recycling container, for free, to each customer.

The city had been losing money with the pay-as-you-throw program; officials have said previously it did not raise enough revenue to offset tipping fees paid when bringing trash to landfills. The new program, which took effect July 1, is also designed to improve safety for sanitation workers and make pickup more efficient — mechanical lifts have been installed on garbage trucks to pick up and empty the containers, according to the city website.

The ordinance adopted Monday states that “residents shall use city-provided containers for the deposit of trash,” and that “raw waste and garbage” must be secured in a plastic trash bag before it is placed in the receptacle.

Residents can put up to 60 pounds of refuse in the container, according to the ordinance. Customers who generate more trash than their container can hold, more than twice a month, will be charged a $75 fee each time that happens.

Residents can pay $60 a year to obtain a second trash container, and a second recycling container can be requested at no extra charge, depending on their availability, according to the ordinance. There is a $50 fee, per container, to obtain a replacement Toter for trash or recycling. The Toters are city property, the ordinance states.

The city will offer one free pickup of bulk trash each fiscal year, but there are fees for subsequent bulk pickups.

Residents can put out three “large items,” such as furniture, kitchen appliances and mattresses, for each pickup, and they will be charged $20 per item.

Smaller items that are 50 pounds or less, or that one person could pick up and put on a truck, such as chairs or desks, can be put out at three to five items per pickup. Each pickup costs $10, according to the ordinance.

Residents who operate home-based businesses that generate trash beyond their Toters’ capacity must use commercial haulers, if the public works director or designated city representative makes that determination, the ordinance states.

City Manager Randy Robertson reported that about eight out of 10 customers have been using their city-issued containers, whereas about one third to one half of customers had not been putting pay-as-you-throw stickers on their trash.

The amount of trash collected has grown in the past three months as the city discontinued the trash stickers, increasing tipping fees by about $18,000 to $20,000. The city has also gained some new customers who exchanged commercial haulers for the city’s free trash cans, according to Robertson.

“Hopefully, we’re seeing a cleaner city,” Robertson said.

City leaders have heard some concerns about customers who have difficulty pushing their Toters out to the curb for pickup.

McGrady encouraged people to contact the Department of Public Works if they need assistance.

Call 410-272-1600 or visit the city’s website at https://www.aberdeenmd.gov for more information.

The mayor also noted the $75 fee is meant for customers who exceed their containers’ capacity on a regular basis — it is not meant for people who occasionally go over capacity, such as when they have a party, he said.

“We’re compassionate and we understand this is a change, and we’re working together to come up with the best procedures and processes, plus policies to maximize compliance and make sure the garbage gets picked up and make sure the cans get put back where they’re supposed to be when they’re done,” McGrady said.

Aberdeen resident Ryan Burbey, who also serves as president of the Harford County Education Association, the local teachers’ union, expressed concerns about the fees and enforcement, though.

Burbey, who will step down from his position in August and return to being a classroom teacher, lives on the east side of Aberdeen. He said many houses have multiple generations living there, out of economic necessity.

He asked how city staff would monitor when customers go over capacity and how they would determine exactly who put out enough trash to exceed the limit.

“In black and white, in the law, it says you’re going to charge people $75 if they put out extra trash twice in one month,” Burbey said.

Burbey noted he is “perfectly happy” with his Toters and the convenience of rolling them out to the curb. He said his household does not generate significant amounts of trash, however.

“I don’t have garbage because I compost — which the city should be doing as well — and then I recycle everything that’s recyclable,” Burbey said.

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