Council debates junk, sewer ordinances

Posted: Friday, June 25, 2010

The Soldotna City Council passed a revised public nuisance ordinance Wednesday after some debate.

The council removed language from the ordinance that would have required residents to use garbage receptacles with animal-resistant lids. The section on garbage and rubbish now requires residents to store trash "in a watertight container with a lid of adequate integrity."

Nancy Eoff said that the ordinance implied residents were required to buy expensive receptacles to prevent bear and moose foraging. City Planner Stephanie Queen said that the original wording allowed wiggle room because the garbage industry has no standard for animal-resistant lids. Queen said that the definition allowed improvised methods to maintain closure such as duct tape and bungee cords.

Police Chief John Lucking said that the city would consider subsidizing more expensive "bear-proof" garbage cans with grant money through Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Wildlife Conservation Community Program.

"You can't make the rule out of nowhere without support," said council member Peggy Mullen.

Mullen said that the ordinance's definitions of garbage and unsightly premises could ban compost piles. She believed that code enforcers might consider composters guilty of discarding trash. Mullen said that she didn't want to dissuade composters that properly maintained piles so as not to attract local wildlife. Mayor Peter Micciche believed that trash mongers could claim actual public nuisances were compost piles to avoid fines. Council member Dale Bagley said that the council needed to define a compost pile in order to protect them. He said that the council could add a definition later on if it deemed necessary.

Council members also reviewed the definition of unsightly premises. Council member Edward Sleater proposed an amendment to include ATVs, snowmobiles, trailers, trailer cabs and a number of other motorized vehicles and accessories under equipment residents can't discard on their property.

"That is what ends up in front yards," Sleater said.

He withdrew the amendment when the council assured him the additions were understood to be in the bill.

Mullen said that the ordinance should clarify appropriate locations for clotheslines because some residents use them to reduce their carbon footprint.

"It may be appropriate in the back yard, but probably not the front yard," she said.

The council also postponed a revised sewage bill because of disagreements over wording and a lack of appeals process. Mullen said that the council should replace "bootlegged services" with non-complying, because the former term implies illegality. She believes that many sewage systems unauthorized by the current code were acceptable during previous administrations.

"Who knows what happened in the Dark Ages?" she said.

The head of public utilities, Rick Woods, confirmed that there's no formal appeals process, but in practice the city does not force residents to make costly repairs. Micciche suggested adding non-conforming, the official term, without removing bootlegged because he doesn't want residents making unauthorized modifications to their sewage lines.

Mark Shaw came to the meeting to advocate for a web videocast to increase local involvement.

"It's the most democratic thing to do," said Shaw.

He said that the webcast allows him to watch meetings at his own pace and the archive helps him stay updated on meetings he missed. The council said that they planned to fix the sound system then start a live audio broadcast.

The city also swore in Kyle Kornelius as the City Engineer. While posing for a picture the mayor asked Kornelius if he played hockey because of his above average height. Kornelius responded in the negative.

"He's a surfer," City Manager Larry Semmens announced after the photo. "He goes to remote Alaskan beaches and surfs."

Tony Cella can be reached at

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