EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Part II of a four-part series looking at trash issues in the city of Mansfield. Yesterday, we looked back more than 20 years, when the city got out of the municipal trash-hauling business. Today, we examine current trash issues facing the city.
MANSFIELD -- Robert Beatty and Lonnie Crawford are not frequent attendees at Mansfield City Council meetings.
But both have shown up at January and February council meetings with the same concern -- a perceived state of lawlessness when it comes to trash in Mansfield.
Beatty, a Walker Street resident, told council about ongoing trash and dumping problems in his 4th Ward neighborhood. He said landlords, homeowners and tenants all need to be held accountable.
Crawford, an Arch Street resident in the 6th Ward, questioned why city laws don't better regulate trash hauling. He said too many residents don't put trash in cans, leaving them by the street in bags that are ripped open by dogs, spreading trash throughout the city.
Those two recent voices sing in unison with what Richland Source heard during "Talk the Vote" and "Your Voice Ohio" sessions with local residents.
The issues became part of the Richland Source Citizens' Agenda presented to council in January and it's also something veteran journalist Doug Oplinger, project coordinator for "Your Voice Ohio," noted in his summary to residents who participated.
"A unique concern in Mansfield was that of cleanliness. ... Residents noted that the city does not negotiate on behalf of residents to secure one waste hauler. Several companies have individual contracts with residents and there may be curbside trash on the street every day of the week," said Oplinger, former long-time managing editor of the Akron Beacon Journal.
The two biggest complaints from residents were consistent: Insufficient regulation of the local trash hauling business and inadequate enforcement of laws against illegal dumping.
Jean Taddie, appointed to council to fill a vacancy in the 6th Ward in January 2019, made the issues a key platform in her successful bid for election to the same seat in November.
"There is too much of it. It's something we can do something about," Taddie told Richland Source. "It's frustrating that the people who are having to live amidst the piles of trash and dumped junk are, for the most part, not the people (causing the problems).
"If we really want our community to shine, if we really want to draw economic development and investment in Mansfield, if we want to say we're proud of our city, we have to quit wallowing in garbage," Taddie said.
The roots of current trash hauling issues reach back into the 1990s when the city began to withdraw from the municipal trash hauling business for financial reasons, finally eliminating its sanitation department in 1998.
Believe it or not, there are current city ordinances regulating the trash hauling business -- found in codified ordinance 745 (garbage and rubbish collection) and ordinance 917 (litter, junk or trash removal). It's been almost two decades since they have been changed or updated.
City residents must contract with several private haulers, who are required by ordinance to pay a $150 annual fee to the city to become licensed for the rights to operate here.
Private haulers determine their own daily routes, which means any number of trash trucks may be traveling through the same neighborhood on any day of the week. That means trash may be set out by the curb multiple days per week in that same neighborhood.
The ordinances dictate that trash "shall not be placed for collection earlier than 6 p.m. on the day before scheduled collection and no refuse or containers shall remain at curbside for more than 24 hours."
However, enforcement of that law, the violation of which is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, is nearly impossible since there are no zoned trash pickup areas in the city.
New 4th Ward Councilman Alomar Davenport said trash hauling comes up frequently in his conversations with residents.
"One of the biggest complaints is how random the trash collection companies can be in terms of when trash is picked up," he said. "A constant complaint is every day seems to be (trash) pickup day for someone."
Current law doesn't require residents to use containers, which means "watertight plastic bags" can be set out, easy prey for dogs, cats and other animals to rip into and spread around.
There is also limited access to any form of curbside recycling, another issued identified by Mansfield residents. Most of the local private haulers simply do not offer recycling options.
Illegal dumping is an even older problem in Mansfield. To be fair, it's an issue in many communities. Each year, municipalities around Ohio spend millions of dollars to protect the environment and public health by cleaning up illegal dumpsites, according to the Richland County Solid Waste Management District.
In addition to city laws, it's a violation of state law, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
But the fact the problem is widespread doesn't mean Taddie and others don't want it solved, or at least reduced. It's a nightmare for the city administration, especially stressing the codes and permits department.
"One of the things I have found is it's great to put rules, regulations and laws into place," Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker said. "Enforcement is something that is extremely difficult sometimes."
In 2017, Theaker said, the city purchased and placed several cameras at strategic sites in anticipation of recording offenders engaged in illegal dumping. He said video was obtained, but was considered insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges.
Certainly, the aforementioned city and state laws prohibit dumping of trash, refuse and junk. But it's still happening on a consistent basis. Taddie said it's a personal issue for her and many of the residents in her ward.
"(Illegal dumping) is probably the top call I got last year as a council person," she said. "Tires, garbage, mattresses being dumped in alley ways, blocking the road. I have (city code enforcement officials) on speed dial. A week didn't go by last year that I wasn't calling to report something.
"Some of the garbage problems we have are the result of someone's business model. Tires are an egregious problem in our community. I recently had 27 tires in one alley recently. We had 40 in one block a month ago. That doesn't even count the piles of tires on private property."
Taddie also spoke of tenants who leave a house full of garbage when they leave a residence.
"This is as personal a problem to me as the house next door. I have seen every horror story you can imagine. People (next to her house) moved out (leaving trash behind). The bugs migrated out of that house to my house and I had to get an exterminator," she said.
Tomorrow: How do Ohio cities of size comparable to Mansfield handle trash hauling and illegal dumping issues? Who is doing it differently?