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Clean City Initiative plans to revamp litter laws

Date: 1/11/2011

Jan. 12, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE — The Clean City Initiative Committee is not as interested in creating new ordinances regarding litter and keeping the city clean as it is in making existing regulations easy to read and follow.

The committee, started by Mayor Elaine Pluta, met on Jan. 5 and discussed the rewriting and consolidation of the city trash ordinances, among other issues.

Kara Cunha, of the city's Law Department, described the effort as one to examine what ordinances are working and what's not as well as determining the level of enforcement of the existing laws. The goal is to develop a comprehensive consolidation that outlines the responsibilities of property owners and residents.

Cunha said she and committee member Rory Casey have been working with her on the consolidation.

"We don't really change anything," she said, describing what they've done so far as a "working document."

William Fuqua, the director of the Department of Public Works (DPW), noted the biggest problems with the ordinances are their enforcement.

Cunha said there have been problems with how the tickets have been worded and laid out and part of this process would be to address that as well.

"This is a conversation starter," Casey said.

The committee also asked Kathy Anderson of the Office of Economic Development about the number of vacant buildings owned by the city and how they are kept clean. Anderson explained although the city does have a list of properties, most of them are lots rather than buildings and the DPW does keep them clean.

She noted, "The more buildings the city takes the greater the burden."

When asked about the Parsons Paper site, she said the city doesn't own the former factory yet.

"It's a very complicated situation," she said and explained the owner of the building is in bankruptcy court. The city could go through the tax title process, as it is owed several million dollars in back taxes from the owner of the property, Anderson added.

The site is contaminated and once the city takes ownership, it would apply for grants in order to clean it up for potential redevelopment, she said.

The committee discussed the problem faced by some businesses whose dumpsters are being opened by people looking for returnable cans and bottles. Waste paper is frequently dumped on the ground in the process, which is then blown around on streets and sidewalks.

Business owners have placed locks on the dumpsters to prevent the foraging but the people involved have used bolt cutters to open the locks.

One solution has come from a business owner who uses a standard open garbage can behind her business for any returnable bottle or can. This measure prevents people from breaking into her dumpster.

The group also spoke about launching a yearlong clean-up effort that would start in April with the celebration of Earth Day and Pluta would like to investigate starting a business improvement district for the downtown area.

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