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Councilman: 'It doesn't seem fundamentally fair'

Scott Seitz2 • May 4, 2014 at 10:01 PM

Norwalk city officials plan to revisit the sanitation ordinances after a rural Monroeville resident voiced his concerns to city council Tuesday.

Thomas Smith, of 2863 Terry Road, told council he has purchased the property at 15 Cline St. and is currently working on it.

Smith said, the garbage -- not construction debris -- that is produced at the Cline Street location isn't being picked up by the city sanitation department.

According to city officials who interpreted the sanitation ordinance, since Smith isn't a city resident, the trash can't be picked up — even though Smith and his wife both pay the city's quarter-percent sanitation income tax.

City officials proceeded to say a city resident who doesn't pay the quarter-percent tax still can have his or her trash picked up, but a non-resident who does pay the tax and has invested in the community cannot.

So, Smith and his wife are paying a tax from which they receive no benefit.

Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan said the easy solution would have been for sanitation just to pick up the trash, but that would have been against the law.

After listening to the discussion, council president Steve Euton ordered a review of the sanitation ordinance.

Euton said Smith is someone who is helping develop the community, and pays the tax, but can't have his trash picked up.

"There has to be some sort of compromise," Councilman Bob Carleton said.

"I'm troubled he's paying the tax and getting no benefit from it," Councilman Chris Mushett said during Tuesday's meeting.

On Wednesday, Mushett's added to his comments.

"This has troubled me for a while," Mushett said. "But, I'm also not sure what the solution is.

"We need to take a good look at this and see what our options are," he added. "On the surface, it doesn't seem fundamentally fair.

"Maybe it's something like changing the definition of a resident or altering a procedure," Mushett said. "Again, on the surface it seems simple, but you don't know what will happen once you open that door.

"It's not as easy as saying, 'Go ahead and pick it up,'" Mushett said. "Maybe this is something that has to go back to the voters."

In the early 1990s, city voters originally passed the quarter-percent sanitation tax.

Norwalk Law Director Stuart O'Hara explained the situation Wednesday.

"The collecting of the tax is for the benefit of everybody," O'Hara said. "The benefit is a clean city and a sanitary city."

O'Hara said city voters passed the quarter-percent income tax Feb. 4, 1992 for a specific purpose.

The ballot issue said beginning March 1, 1992, the continuation of garbage collection services would be for the "citizens of Norwalk."

To change what was originally passed in 1992 would require a vote of the people, the law director said.

O'Hara said if non-residents' trash were to be picked up, it would have to be funded by some other source than the quarter-percent income tax.

O'Hara said changing the definition of "resident" doesn't matter.

"That's not the issue -- what a resident is," he said. "The ballot said, 'citizens of Norwalk.'"

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