Pittsfield Board of Health backs plan to overhaul trash-pickup program

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PITTSFIELD — The city's Board of Health is supporting a proposal to overhaul Pittsfield's trash-pickup program, saying it would address sanitary concerns held by the Health Department.

The board, charged with enforcing the rules within the program, agreed Wednesday to write a letter endorsing the ordinance proposed by Mayor Linda Tyer and Finance Director Matt Kerwood.

The plan would require residents to buy designated overflow bags for pickup beyond the provided containers.

Health Director Gina Armstrong said garbage-strewn street corners serve as a food source for rodents and other disease-carrying critters.

"That's a very important consideration," she said, adding that the proposed plan would tidy up the streets and make them more sanitary. "It would be a vast improvement over what we're doing now."

Under the proposal, the city would provide residents with two totes for solid waste pickup: one 45-gallon container for trash and a 96-gallon container for recycling, with alternative sizes available to seniors and disabled residents upon request. If approved by the City Council, the new pickup procedure would begin in April.

Armstrong requested language in the ordinance to clarify rules on bulky waste, like furniture. She said her department hears a lot of nuisance complaints about such items.

Kerwood said officials should be ready to provide a list of private haulers in the area that could get bulky items that the city would stop picking up.

"The landlords are a big piece of this," he said. He clarified, too, that each apartment unit will get its own tote.

Armstrong also recommended that language be added to the ordinance to limit the amount of time trash spends streetside. She suggested limiting curbside placement to no earlier than dusk the evening before pickup day, and suggested that a time be set for bin retrieval.

"The less time it's out there, the better," she said.

Board member Alan Kulberg suggested that placement and retrieval times apply only to overflow bags, seeing as the city-provided totes are designed to be relatively animal-proof. Kerwood cautioned the board from setting regulations the public might find too strict, noting that this is already a major change.

Board members agreed to refer discussion around placement and retrieval times to a working group for more vetting.

Chairman Jay Green said the board would devise more detailed enforcement language when a new ordinance is approved. Those regulations would, in turn, require approval from the mayor and City Council.

Armstrong said the planned vendor, Republic Services, agreed to help the department with enforcement. She said Republic Services' staff would track repeat offenders, take photographs and place educational stickers on errant items.

"That was a big relief, to know that we would have that type of assistance," she said. "We'll be able to address problem properties more promptly."

The City Council, which first heard the proposal last month, is expected to take up the issue again during its meeting Tuesday. But Council President Peter Marchetti said it is unlikely that councilors will act on the proposal before January.

Over the course of the council's previous two meetings, councilors said they need more detailed information about the plan before making a decision. Councilors Chris Connell and Kathy Amuso said they'd like to see the proposal go out to bid to ensure that the city is seeing the most savings on solid waste disposal.

Amuso called a charter objection during the previous council meeting, which prohibited further discussion and decision-making until the next meeting.

"They've worked very hard on this project, but I think there's more work to be done," Amuso said, asserting that councilors needed more information before a vote was appropriate. "I needed more of the nitty-gritty."

Amanda Drane can be reached at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter or at 413-496-6296.


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