Garbage a hot topic at City Council work session

The city council work session on Tuesday, Dec. 13, involved a hearty and sometimes boisterous discussion on the subject of garbage.  City Prosecuting Attorney Amanda Kirby and EPD Chief Mike Vranish asked the mayor and council to consider approving an amendment to the city code titled petit larceny and retitling it as “theft” and adding an additional section titled, “theft of services.”

Kirby said, “This subject was brought to me by Chief Vranish as we no longer have a theft of services in our manual. Last year the state eliminated a law on theft of services so we no longer have a statute on someone walking out on a hotel bill or other things like that. This ordinance also includes making it illegal for someone to place garbage in another person’s trash can.”

The proposed theft of services amendment states as follows: “A. A person who, with intent to defraud, obtains services which he knows are available only for compensation without paying for the services is guilty of Theft of Services if the value of the services is less than one thousand dollars ($1000.00).  B. For purposes of this Section, the unauthorized use of trash containers, other than by the owner or renter of said containers, or by the intended business users of a trash container, shall be deemed to be Theft of Services.”

Attorney Boal asked if the city really wanted to make the activity of putting garbage in someone else’s garbage can illegal.  “Is that the kind of behavior we want to criminalize in our city?” Boal asked.

“Sometimes that happens when you live in a city, and Amanda and I talked about it quite a bit,” Boal said. “We didn’t want to just spring this on you but give you time to ponder it.”

There was lots of laughter as almost everyone admitted to using someone else’s garbage can at least once in their life.

Mike Sellers said he didn’t know if a $1,000 fine was appropriate but he wished there were some way people could be stopped from doing it.  He explained that he pays for two garbage cans near his rentals and they are always overflowing even though he has only one resident using the can presently.  He has seen people dumping mattresses and big items of furniture in local businesses’ garbage bins.

Vranish explained that, at one time, someone had placed the guts and innards of a game animal in the trash bin at the Aspen Cinemas and the police had been called. At that time the police found out who had done it and had them return and remove their garbage from the bins.

“Since the state eliminated theft of services as a criminal offense, hotels and restaurants now have to file a civil suit in small claims court against someone who doesn’t pay their bill,” Vranish said.

Mayor Kent Williams said he had no problem with making walking out on a hotel or restaurant bill illegal but he did have a problem with the garbage thing. Most of those present nodded in agreement with Williams.

Vranish said, “I’m not going to have my guys out there on trash can patrol; we just need a way to address the problem.”

The discussion went back and forth until Boal said they could look into it further and see what other communities are doing. The ordinance will be on the agenda for the next regular meeting.

During the work session, Taylor Kofoed with Urban Renewal Agency (URA) provided an update on the Main Street lighting project.  URA has looked at the possibility of removing the four light poles on the corners of 10th and Main Street and replacing them with wooden structures designed to hold the lighting and then crisscrossing the lights down Main Street both directions and attaching the lighting to structure poles that will be placed in the holes of existing light poles that have been removed. The new poles will be 16 feet high in order to allow commercial vehicle access. Kofoed said they had worked with the Fire Department and the City on the access needs.

“The cost estimate right now is between $200,000 up to $800,000 which, at this point, URA can’t do,” Kofoed said. “We are considering putting it out for a bid.”

In answer to a question regarding why they didn’t just hang the lights from the buildings, Kofoed said they probably could but the liability and maintenance could be a problem.  The structurally built poles would allow for updates and changes for holidays, Kofoed said.

Another concern addressed was, if the project was done in stages over several years, wether the products and materials would still be available and Kofoed said that was a valid concern.  She said they may have to consider purchasing all of the materials at once, storing them and installing them in stages.

“This has been in the works for a while and we needed to update you on our progress,” Kofoed said. “If there are no more questions, that concludes my presentation.”

Another topic brought to the council for discussion was the blight study URA had compiled and had given each member of the council and the mayor a printed copy.  Rocco O’Neill, Community Development Director, provided a slide presentation on the URA.

“The state of Wyoming enabled the URA as an economic development tool for the purpose of redeveloping urban areas and to encourage private investment,” O’Neill said. “In order to benefit from the funds available, the URA has to determine an area of town that is blighted and has been designated as a URA project. Our URA plan is four years old and we are in the process of updating it.  We are focusing on certain areas that meet the criteria of blight.”

O’Neill showed slides of the Hitching Post hotel and restaurant in Cheyenne and told how the city had used tax increment financing (TIF) to redevelop the area after the facility burned down.

In order to be eligible for TIF, O’Neill said, the project must show a public benefit, provide infrastructure, or remedy an environmental hazard or hazards or unsafe conditions for the public. The money comes from property tax and TIF can go to paying back a loan. 

“The state statute that covers what we are talking about is WS 15-9-107 which states that a municipality has to designate an area of blight in order to apply for TIF.  The document we compiled in cooperation with AYRES Associates is the area we would like to focus on as blight,” O’Neill said. “The idea is to use TIF financing for public benefit.”