Saturday, February 14, 2009

Matuszak: Bexley's trash-picking permit idea dumped

Bexley City Council has decided to curb a proposal for a trash-picking permit, but the issue could be recycled as a ballot initiative.

Council's service committee voted 3-0 on Feb. 3 not to go forward with a suggestion from resident Robert Jessberger to change an ordinance that prohibits individuals from scavenging trash for items that can be repaired or re-sold. The recommendation was prompted by police warnings issued to Jessberger, who for years has periodically perused the city's alleys for salvageable items that he collects for charities and for profit.

Jessberger, who admitted to repeatedly skirting the law, suggested that Bexley residents could pay a $50 fee for a yearly trash-collecting permit, and that fines for violations could be raised to $250.

Police Chief Larry Rinehart has been adamantly opposed to the permit idea, that he warned could bring more people to the city's streets and alleys and add to property thefts.

A bicycle left in a driveway looks good to someone out at 2 a.m. looking for loot, according to the chief.

"The reality is, we are a city in peril," Rineheart told council, pointing out that 600 incidents of property theft were reported in 2008, and that arrests jumped by 200 from the previous year.

No other city the size of 2.5-square mile Bexley experiences this rate of crime, the chief added.

Rinheart said he is not against recycling and reusing items. "There is only thing that trumps that, the safety of the community."

Council members also stated that they did not want to discourage recycling household items, but ultimately sided on the safety issue.

Councilman Mark Masser noted that the law prohibiting trash picking was passed after Bexley began curbside recycling, which attracted those looking to sell cans and other items.

Rumpke, the city's waste hauler, makes part of its money from recyclables, he pointed out.

The anti-scavenging ordinance has not been stringently enforced. But service commitee chairman Rick Weber recommended that officers begin to issue citations to violators.

There are numerous organizations that will pick up household items for repair and reuse, including the MAP furniture bank, Masser said, and residents need to know about these options.

"The problem is the education of residents," Masser said. "That route is much better, not Mr. Jessberger's theory of Robin Hood."

Weber commented that this information could be included with quarterly water bills.

Not quite willing to dump the issue, Jessberger brought up the possibility of mounting a ballot initiative to change the law, although he said it would depend on the number of signatures he would need to collect.

In the meantime, he said he would be ending his trawling for trash.

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