By a 6-1 vote, the Mobile City Council on Wednesday passed an ordinance adding teeth and making other changes to the existing litter law.
Councilman John Williams was the lone dissenter. He admitted the city had a litter problem, but cited concerns for business owners and others over a provision to erect fences around all the dumpsters in the city.
“Mandating enclosures on dumpsters will put a burden on businesses to install those enclosures in places they weren’t planned,” he said.
The provision would be costly and could change parking and traffic flow for local businesses, Williams said.
Diane Irby, executive director of planning and development, told councilors in a pre-conference meeting Tuesday morning the enclosures would help prevent trash from escaping overflowing dumpsters. She said the provision, which calls for a fence no taller than 8 feet be erected around the dumpster, was part of litter ordinances they reviewed from other cities.
The provision is already attached to any new commercial or multiple family developments in the city.
Another concern for Williams was the impact the provision would have on the commercial garbage collection industry. He had concerns over the noise and safety of truck drivers opening gates in the “middle of the night.”
“If it were me, it would say — just as our current ordinance says — that new development and redevelopment have the enclosures and we grandfather the other businesses in.”
Under the ordinance, a police officer or enforcement officer can cite or give a corrective notice to a resident, business owner or individual for a violation of the article.
If a notice is issued, the offender will have a specified amount of time to correct the issue, but the issuance of a corrective notice is not required prior to the issuance of a citation.
Violation of the ordinance is punishable by a fine of between $250 and $500. Violators could also face up to six months in jail or may be sentenced to community service.
Other changes to the litter ordinance includes the addition of mandatory cigarette receptacles at the entrances to commercial buildings, employee smoking areas and common pedestrian transition points. The provision, however, doesn’t apply to the downtown development district. The receptacles have sand to help snuff out cigarette butts, Irby said, and will hopefully keep smokers from throwing butts on the ground.
There is also a new provision to ensure businesses have a sufficient number of garbage cans, Irby said.
In other business, the council decided in a 6-1 vote to enter into a contract worth $18,500 with S. Vitale Pyrotechnic Industries for the city’s annual Independence Day fireworks display.
Bess Rich voted against the expenditure, concerned about spending money on a nonessential service. She asked about the possibility of a public and private partnership to secure the funding.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper told Rich that by law, government officials aren’t allowed to solicit money for it, but added that next year the administration would look into partnering with Events Mobile.
He said Events Mobile secured the money for the annual MoonPie Over Mobile fireworks display and they would look at adding the July 4th display next year.
Councilman Joel Daves said while he’s not against finding an alternative source for funding the display, he doesn’t support taking the event out of next year’s budget, because it’s too important to the country.
Councilman C.J. Small said the event was important because it also gives less fortunate residents a chance to see a fireworks display on this side of the bay.
In other business, Finance Director Paul Wesch, told the council they city’s revenue through sales and use taxes and license fees had surpassed what was budgeted by just over $2 million.
Wesch said sales and use taxes were $1.65 million above the budgeted amount, as of April. He told the finance committee Wednesday afternoon the increase was due to an increase in retail sales. License and permits was also $861,000 ahead of budget.
“With four months to go (in the fiscal year) it seems we can sustain some decreases and be OK,” he said.
In addition to an increase in revenue, the budgets of the various operating departments are under budget, Wesch said. The Mobile Fire-Rescue Department budget is $867,000 under budget, but that’s partially due to about $400,000 in staff pay being charged to the firemedic budget, he said.
The Mobile Police Department is also under budget, he said, largely due to not having a cadet class this year and some attrition, Wesch said.
The municipal garage is under budget, due partially to budgeted positions that haven’t been filled yet. Wesch said the department has requested equipment and specialists they think will help defray costs associated with farming out work.
For instance, Wesch said, the department is requesting a frame straightener at a cost of $81,000. The municipal garage has already farmed out $50,000 worth of frame straightening work this year, he said.
In a discussion of the fiscal year 2015 budget, Wesch told Rich that the administration was looking at employee raises, but that no decision had been made yet. He said the finance department should get budget proposals back from other departments Friday.