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Answer Man: Where do my garbage bins belong on collection day?

January 21, 2019

Dear Answer Man: While snow has been suspiciously absent for much of the season, I recall seeing a notice from the city that garbage bins are not supposed to be placed in the street to make sure plows have a clear path when the snow does start flying.

However, it seems the majority of homeowners in my neighborhood set their garbage bins squarely in the parking lane, meaning plows must swerve to avoid them if snow days happen to coincide with garbage days.

Additionally, I’ve noticed on many occasions that my garbage and recycling bins have been moved to the street by the garbage truck after being emptied.

So, where do the wheeled garbage receptacles belong? — Trashed and confused

Dear Trashed: You are correct. For now, at least.

One of my challenges as keeper-of-all-knowledge is when answers become outdated or suddenly face unforeseen changes.

As it stands, Rochester Public Works issues an annual reminder to place garbage bins in your driveway or on the boulevard when they are waiting for pickup.

“Bins placed in the street create additional obstacles for the snow plow drivers,” the message states. “Drivers have to plow around the obstacles, which leaves snow farther out in the street in front of the driveway and causes more shoveling for the homeowner and may result in bins getting knocked over.”

However, the rules could be changing.

Public Works cites chapter 73 in city ordinances, which bans placing items, including trash cans and dumpsters, in public rights of way. However, Chapter 141 of the same ordinances, which governs trash collection, doesn’t quite define where containers belong on pick-up day.

With that in mind, city staff sought to align the later chapter with established Public Works recommendations, but a local hauler said boulevard placement can cause issues. Evidently, the grassy area along the street can be torn up during the collection process, requiring repairs to boulevard grass come spring.

To answer the trash collectors’ concerns, city staff is recommending the council allow bins to be placed curbside, as long as they do not block traffic.

If the council passes the proposed change during its Wednesday meeting, the ordinance would state, “During collection periods the containers shall be placed adjacent to but not in the traveled portion of the right of way. No container shall be kept adjacent to the right of way for longer than 24 hours.”

The change would seem to create a conflict in the city ordinances, which likely is a product of having more than 150 chapters of city code, with some related issues subdivided and included in more than one chapter.

Last year, City Attorney Jason Loos said the city is undergoing what is expected to be a yearlong process to change that, hoping to renumber the code and potentially bring the number of sections down to 20 or 30.

With that, I can only imagine that some of today’s other rules could face tweaks as city ordinances get a closer look and outdated language is updated.

It’s times like these that give your not-so-humble source of all answers a reason to wake up in the morning.

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