City frustrated by out-of-town dropoffs

Alicia Manzitti dumped debris from her yard onto the heaping pile at the city’s brush pile on the 1500 block of West Third Street Wednesday.

While Manzitti admitted the city hours of operation – 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed Sunday – were a hardship to most workers who tend to want to garden or clean up yards after work or in the early evening hours of summer. She was there in the mid-week because of a break in her job status.

“That’s when most people are working in their yards,” she said.

By mid-May, the city clamped down on the hours the brush pile was open after Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said abuse was occurring.

“It’s not fair to those who work during the day,” said a 72-year-old man living on Newberry Street. He didn’t want to be identified but was glad to be able to dump the waste.

Mike Brule, of the city, said he took a day off work because of the Sunday shutdown.

Another man who tried to dump there Saturday was unable to gain entrance, though he arrived long before closure.

“That was a fluke,” said William C. Wright, the city general manager of the Streets and Parks Department. “River Valley Transit, the bus company next door, opened it up and there was a new individual operating it,” he said.

The brush pile is only for city residents and contractors who shell out $700 a year to obtain a permit.

But a woman claiming to live in South Williamsport dumped her limbs and clippings there Wednesday, either knowingly violating or unaware of the regulations on the sign at the entrance.

She said her hometown and drove off after depositing her clippings.

Wright said he’s dealing with these kind of violations plus a growing cost to grind the brush into mulch, much of it riddled with plastic, creosote-soaked timber and construction debris not suitable to be ground into a pulp and spread as mulch.

Cameras are up to capture illegal dumping of construction waste or plastic, Campana said, but Wright said the cameras aren’t working.

“They are malfunctioning and a vendor is going to repair them,” he said. The cameras are covered by a warranty, he said.

Ever-increasing costs are placed on taxpayers, Wright said, revealing city taxpayers footed a $6,000 in bill in 2009 to have the brush ground using a rented tub-grinding machine and $14,000 last year.

City Council President Bill Hall said if illegal dumping is occurring, perhaps codes department staff should be utilized, a clear violation of codes, and the department might want to be staggered instead of working regular shifts.

Hall also could see the mulch be a revenue producer, suggesting it be sold by the bag for a price cheaper than most people can get it at a store.

“Sales could be open to non-residents,” he said.

Extending the hours would cost the city more to continue to monitor it, Campana said, and he will consider extending the hours only if he hears complaints.

Campana said, to date, he was told by one man who wanted to see the hours extended more than 3 p.m. Saturday, and he had Wright do that a few weeks ago.

“Our hours are similar to other municipalities.”

Wright said without help or some change in plan it is impossible to enforce properly without staff watching for non-city residents dumping.

“If I were to check that I have to get the license plate number, police then run the plate, then I would file the information with a district judge,” Wright said. “Do you realize how much time it would consume?” he asked.

In the instances of illegal dumping the city is able to file a charge and cite the individual up to $1,000 after an ordinance raised the citation and went into effect in February, Wright said.

“Normally I have someone out there,” Wright said. If the city operated Sunday, he would have to pay double-time, which could be $50 an hour, he said.

“None of the municipalities I know of are open Sunday,” he said.

Wright said the department spent eight days after thunderstorms this summer cleaning yard debris for residents. “I think we’re doing all we can,” he said.